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Future of an 

Newly translated from the German 
and edited by James Strachey 




The Future 




Newly Translated from the German 
and Edited by 



Copyright © 1961 by James Strachey 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 
Freud, Sigmund, 1865-1939- 
The future of an illusion. 

Translation of Die Zukunft einer Illusion. 
Bibliography: p. 

Includes indexes. 

1. Psychology, Religious. 2. Religion. 

3. Psychoanalysis. I. Strachey, James. II. Title. 
BL53.F67 1975 200'.1'9 75 15645 

ISBN 0 393-01120-8 

Printed in the United States of America 


Editor’s Note 

The Future of an Illusion 
Bibliography and Author Index 

General Index 




(a) German Editions: 

1927 Leipzig, Vienna and Zurich: International Psycho- 

analytischer Verlag. Pp. 91. 

1928 2nd ed. Same publishers. (Unchanged.) Pp. 91. 

1928 G.S., 11 , 411-66. 

1948 G.W., 14 , 325-380. 

( b ) English Translation: 

The Future of an Illusion 

1928 London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho- 
Analysis. Pp. 98. (Tr. W. D. Robson-Scott.) 

The present translation is based on that published in 1928. 

This work was begun in the spring of 1927, it was finished by 
September and published in November of the same year. 

In the ‘Postscript’ which Freud added in 1935 to his Autobio- 
graphical Study he remarked on ‘a significant change’ that had 
come about in his writings during the previous decade. ‘My 
interest’, he explained, ‘after making a long detour through the 
natural sciences, medicine and psychotherapy, returned to the 
cultural problems which had fascinated me long before, when 
I was a youth scarcely old enough for thinking’ ( Standard Ed., 
20 , 72). He had, of course, touched several times on those 
problems in the intervening years — especially in Totem and 
Taboo (1912-13) ; l but it was with The Future of an Illusion that 
he entered on the series of studies which were to be his major 
concern for the remainder of his life. Of these the most im- 
portant were Civilization and its Discontents (1930a), which is the 
direct successor to the present work, the discussion of philoso- 
phies of life which forms the last of the New Introductory Lectures 
(1933a), Why War? (19336), Freud’s open letter to Einstein, and 

1 His earliest published approach to the problem of religion was in the 
paper on ‘Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices’ (19076). 



finally Moses and Monotheism (1939a), which he worked at from 
1934 onwards. 

In view of Freud’s sweeping pronouncement on p. 6 (‘I 
scorn to distinguish between culture and civilization’) and of a 
similar remark towards the end of ‘ Why War?', it seems un- 
necessary to embark on the tiresome problem of the proper 
translation of the German word l Kultur\ We have usually, but 
not invariably, chosen ‘civilization’ for the noun and ‘cultural’ 
for the adjective. 



When one has lived for quite a long time in a particular 
civilization 1 and has often tried to discover what its origins 
were and along what path it has developed, one sometimes 
also feels tempted to take a glance in the other direction and 
to ask what further fate lies before it and what transformations 
it is destined to undergo. But one soon finds that the value of 
such an enquiry is diminished from the outset by several 
factors. Above all, because there are only a few people who can 
survey human activity in its full compass. Most people have 
been obliged to restrict themselves to a single, or a few, fields 
of it. But the less a man knows about the past and the present 
the more insecure must prove to be his judgement of the future. 
And there is the further difficulty that precisely in a judgement 
of this kind the subjective expectations of the individual play a 
part which it is difficult to assess; and these turn out to be 
dependent on purely personal factors in his own experience, on 
the greater or lesser optimism of his attitude to life, as it has been 
dictated for him by his temperament or by his success or failure. 
Finally, the curious fact makes itself felt that in general people 
experience their present naively, as it were, without being able 
to form an estimate of its contents; they have first to put them- 
selves at a distance from it — the present, that is to say, must 
have become the past — before it can yield points of vantage 
from which to judge the future. 

Thus anyone who gives way to the temptation to deliver an 
opinion on the probable future of our civilization will do well 
to remind himself of the difficulties I have just pointed out, as 
well as of the uncertainty that attaches quite generally to any 
prophecy. It follows from this, so far as I am concerned, that I 
shall make a hasty retreat before a task that is too great, and 
shall promptly seek out the small tract of territory which has 
claimed my attention hitherto, as soon as I have determined its 
position in the general scheme of things. 

Human civilization, by which I mean all those respects in 

1 [See Editor’s Note, p. 4.] 



which human life has raised itself above its animal status and 
differs from the life of beasts — and I scorn to distinguish between 
culture and civilization — , presents, as we know, two aspects 
to the observer. It includes on the one hand all the knowledge 
and capacity that men have acquired in order to control the 
forces of nature and extract its wealth for the satisfaction of 
human needs, and, on the other hand, all the regulations 
necessary in order to adjust the relations of men to one another 
and especially the distribution of the available wealth. The two 
trends of civilization are not independent of each other: firstly, 
because the mutual relations of men are profoundly influenced 
by the amount of instinctual satisfaction which the existing 
wealth makes possible; secondly, because an individual man 
can himself come to function as wealth in relation to another 
one, in so far as the other person makes use of his capacity for 
work, or chooses him as a sexual object; and thirdly, moreover, 
because every individual is virtually an enemy of civilization, 
though civilization is supposed to be an object of universal 
human interest . 1 It is remarkable that, little as men are able to 
exist in isolation, they should nevertheless feel as a heavy 
burden the sacrifices which civilization expects of them in order 
to make a communal life possible. Thus civilization has to be 
defended against the individual, and its regulations, institu- 
tions and commands are directed to that task. They aim not 
only at effecting a certain distribution of wealth but at main- 
taining that distribution; indeed, they have to protect every- 
thing that contributes to the conquest of nature and the 
production of wealth against men’s hostile impulses. Human 
creations are easily destroyed, and science and technology, 
which have built them up, can also be used for their annihilation. 

One thus gets an impression that civilization is something 
which was imposed on a resisting majority by a minority which 
understood how to obtain possession of the means to power and 
coercion. It is, of course, natural to assume that these difficulties 
are not inherent in the nature of civilization itself but are 
determined by the imperfections of the cultural forms which 
have so far been developed. And in fact it is not difficult to 

1 [The hostility of human individuals to civilization plays a large part 
in the earlier chapters of this work. Freud returned to the subject and 
discussed it still more fully two years later in his Civilization and its 
Discontents (1930a).] 


indicate those defects. While mankind has made continual 
advances in its control over nature and may expect to make still 
greater ones, it is not possible to establish with certainty that a 
similar advance has been made in the management of human 
affairs; and probably at all periods, just as now once again, 
many people have asked themselves whether what little 
civilization has thus acquired is indeed worth defending at all. 
One would think that a re-ordering of human relations should 
be possible, which would remove the sources of dissatisfaction 
with civilization by renouncing coercion and the suppression 
of the instincts, so that, undisturbed by internal discord, men 
might devote themselves to the acquisition of wealth and its 
enjoyment. That would be the golden age, but it is questionable 
if such a state of affairs can be realized. It seems rather that 
every civilization must be built up on coercion and renunciation 
of instinct; it does not even seem certain that if coercion were to 
cease the majority of human beings would be prepared to under- 
take to perform the work necessary for acquiring new wealth. 
One has, I think, to reckon with the fact that there are present 
in all men destructive, and therefore anti-social and anti- 
cultural, trends and that in a great number of people these are 
strong enough to determine their behaviour in human society. 

This psychological fact has a decisive importance for our 
judgement of human civilization. Whereas we might at first 
think that its essence lies in controlling nature for the purpose 
of acquiring wealth and that the dangers which threaten it 
could be eliminated through a suitable distribution of that 
wealth among men, it now seems that the emphasis has moved 
over from the material to the mental. The decisive question is 
whether and to what extent it is possible to lessen the burden of 
the instinctual sacrifices imposed on men, to reconcile men to 
those which must necessarily remain and to provide a com- 
pensation for them. It is just as impossible to do without control 
of the mass 1 by a minority as it is to dispense with coercion in 
the work of civilization. For masses are lazy and unintelligent; 
they have no love for instinctual renunciation, and they are not 
to be convinced by argument of its inevitability; and the indi- 
viduals composing them support one another in giving free 

1 [‘Masse.’ The German word has a very wide meaning. It is 
translated ‘group’ for special reasons in Freud’s Group Psychology (1921c). 
See Standard Ed., 18, 69 n. Here ‘mass’ seems more appropriate.] 


rein to their indiscipline. It is only through the influence of 
individuals who can set an example and whom masses recognize 
as their leaders that they can be induced to perform the work 
and undergo the renunciations on which the existence of 
civilization depends. All is well if these leaders are persons who 
possess superior insight into the necessities of life and who have 
risen to the height of mastering their own instinctual wishes. 
But there is a danger that in order not to lose their influence 
they may give way to the mass more than it gives way to them, 
and it therefore seems necessary that they shall be independent 
of the mass by having means to power at their disposal. To put 
it briefly, there are two widespread human characteristics which 
are responsible for the fact that the regulations of civilization 
can only be maintained by a certain degree of coercion — 
namely, that men are not spontaneously fond of work and that 
arguments are of no avail against their passions. 

I know the objections which will be raised against these 
assertions. It will be said that the characteristic of human masses 
depicted here, which is supposed to prove that coercion cannot 
be dispensed with in the work of civilization, is itself only the 
result of defects in the cultural regulations, owing to which men 
have become embittered, revengeful and inaccessible. New 
generations, who have been brought up in kindness and taught 
to have a high opinion of reason, and who have experienced the 
benefits of civilization at an early age, will have a different atti- 
tude to it. They will feel it as a possession of their very own and 
will be ready for its sake to make the sacrifices as regards work 
and instinctual satisfaction that are necessary for its preserva- 
tion. They will be able to do without coercion and will differ 
little from their leaders. If no culture has so far produced human 
masses of such a quality, it is because no culture has yet devised 
regulations which will influence men in this way, and in par- 
ticular from childhood onwards. 

It may be doubted whether it is possible at all, or at any rate 
as yet, at the present stage of our control over nature, to set up 
cultural regulations of this kind. It may be asked where the 
number of superior, unswerving and disinterested leaders are to 
come from who are to act as educators of the future generations, 
and it may be alarming to think of the enormous amount of 
coercion that will inevitably be required before these intentions 
can be carried out. The grandeur of the plan and its importance 


for the future of human civilization cannot be disputed. It is 
securely based on the psychological discovery that man is 
equipped with the most varied instinctual dispositions, whose 
ultimate course is determined by the experiehces of early child- 
hood. But for the same reason the limitations of man’s capacity 
for education set bounds to the effectiveness of such a trans- 
formation in his culture. One may question whether, and in 
what degree, it would be possible for a different cultural en- 
vironment to do away with the two characteristics of human 
masses which make the guidance of human affairs so difficult. 
The experiment has not yet been made. Probably a certain 
percentage of mankind (owing to a pathological disposition or 
an excess of instinctual strength) will always remain asocial; 
but if it were feasible merely to reduce the majority that is 
hostile towards civilization to-day into a minority, a great deal 
would have been accomplished — perhaps all that can be 

I should not like to give the impression that I have strayed 
a long way from the line laid down for my enquiry [p. 5]. 
Let me therefore give an express assurance that I have not the 
least intention of making judgements on the great experiment 
in civilization that is now in progress in the vast country that 
stretches between Europe and Asia. 1 I have neither the special 
knowledge nor the capacity to decide on its practicability, to 
test the expediency of the methods employed or to measure the 
width of the inevitable gap between intention and execution. 
What is in preparation there is unfinished and therefore eludes 
an investigation for which our own long-consolidated civilization 
affords us material. 

1 [See, however, some remarks in Chapter V of Civilization and its 
Discontents (1930a), and at two points in Why War? (19336) and a long 
discussion in the last of the New Introductory Lectures (1933a).] 


We have slipped unawares out of the economic field into the 
field of psychology. At first we were tempted to look for the 
assets of civilization in the available wealth and in the regula- 
tions for its distribution. But with the recognition that every 
civilization rests on a compulsion to work and a renunciation of 
instinct and therefore inevitably provokes opposition from those 
affected by these demands, it has become clear that civilization 
cannot consist principally or solely in wealth itself and the 
means of acquiring it and the arrangements for its distribution; 
for these things are threatened by the rebelliousness and destruc- 
tive mania of the participants in civilization. Alongside of 
wealth we now come upon the means by which civilization can 
be defended — measures of coercion and other measures that 
are intended to reconcile men to it and to recompense them for 
their sacrifices. These latter may be described as the mental 
assets of civilization. 

For the sake of a uniform terminology we will describe the fact 
that an instinct cannot be satisfied as a ‘frustration’, the regu- 
lation by which this frustration is established as a ‘prohibition’ 
and the condition which is produced by the prohibition as a 
‘privation’. The first step is to distinguish between privations 
which affect everyone and privations which do not affect every- 
one but only groups, classes or even single individuals. The 
former are the earliest; with the prohibitions that established 
them, civilization — who knows how many thousands of years 
ago? — began to detach man from his primordial animal con- 
dition. We have found to our surprise that these privations are 
still operative and still form the kernel of hostility to civilization. 
The instinctual wishes that suffer under them are born afresh 
with every child; there is a class of people, the neurotics, who 
already react to these frustrations with asocial behaviour. 
Among these instinctual wishes are those of incest, cannibalism 
and lust for killing. It sounds strange to place alongside one 
another wishes which everyone seems united in repudiating and 
others about which there is so much lively dispute in our 
civilization as to whether they shall be permitted or frustrated; 
but psychologically it is justifiable to do so. Nor is the attitude 



of civilization to these oldest instinctual wishes by any means 
uniform. Cannibalism alone seems to be universally proscribed 
and — to the non-psycho-analytic view — to have been com- 
pletely surmounted. The strength of the incestuous wishes can 
still be detected behind the prohibition against them; and 
under certain conditions killing is still practised, and indeed 
commanded, by our civilization. It is possible that cultural 
developments lie ahead of us in which the satisfaction of yet 
other wishes, which are entirely permissible to-day, will appear 
just as unacceptable as cannibalism does now. 

These earliest instinctual renunciations already involve a 
psychological factor which remains important for all further 
instinctual renunciations as well. It is not true that the human 
mind has undergone no development since the earliest times 
and that, in contrast to the advances of science and technology, 
it is the same to-day as it was at the beginning of history. We 
can point out one of these mental advances at once. It is in 
keeping with the course of human development that external 
coercion gradually becomes internalized; for a special mental 
agency, man’s super-ego, takes it over and includes it among 
its commandments . 1 Every child presents this process of trans- 
formation to us; only by that means does it become a moral and 
social being. Such a strengthening of the super-ego is a most 
precious cultural asset in the psychological field. Those in whom 
it has taken place are turned from being opponents of civiliza- 
tion into being its vehicles. The greater their number is in a 
cultural unit the more secure is its culture and the more it can 
dispense with external measures of coercion. Now the degree of 
this internalization differs greatly between the various in- 
stinctual prohibitions. As regards the earliest cultural demands, 
which I have mentioned, the internalization seems to have 
been very extensively achieved, if we leave out of account the 
unwelcome exception of the neurotics. But the case is altered 
when we turn to the other instinctual claims. Here we observe 
with surprise and concern that a majority of people obey the 
cultural prohibitions on these points only under the pressure of 
external coercion — that is, only where that coercion can make 
itself effective and so long as it is to be feared. This is also true 
of what are known as the moral demands of civilization, which 

1 [See Chapter III of The Ego and the Id (19234), Standard Ed., 19 , 
28 ff.] 


likewise apply to everyone. Most of one’s experiences of man’s 
moral untrustworthiness fall into this category. There are count- 
less civilized people who would shrink from murder or incest 
but who do not deny themselves the satisfaction of their avarice, 
their aggressive urges or their sexual lusts, and who do not 
hesitate to injure other people by lies, fraud and calumny, so 
long as they can remain unpunished for it; and this, no doubt, 
has always been so through many ages of civilization. 

If we turn to those restrictions that apply only to certain 
classes of society, we meet with a state of things which is flagrant 
and which has always been recognized. It is to be expected that 
these underprivileged classes will envy the favoured ones their 
privileges and will do all they can to free themselves from their 
own surplus of privation. Where this is not possible, a permanent 
measure of discontent will persist within the culture concerned 
and this can lead to dangerous revolts. If, however, a culture has 
not got beyond a point at which the satisfaction of one portion 
of its participants depends upon the suppression of another, 
and perhaps larger, portion — and this is the case in all present- 
day cultures — it is understandable that the suppressed people 
should develop an intense hostility towards a culture whose 
existence they make possible by their work, but in whose wealth 
they have too small a share. In such conditions an internaliza- 
tion of the cultural prohibitions among the suppressed people 
is not to be expected. On the contrary, they are not prepared to 
acknowledge the prohibitions, they are intent on destroying the 
culture itself, and possibly even on doing away with the 
postulates on which it is based. The hostility of these classes 
to civilization is so obvious that it has caused the more latent 
hostility of the social strata that are better provided for to be 
overlooked. It goes without saying that a civilization which 
leaves so large a number of its participants unsatisfied and 
drives them into revolt neither has nor deserves the prospect of 
a lasting existence. 

The extent to which a civilization’s precepts have been 
internalized — to express it popularly and unpsychologically: 
the moral level of its participants — is not the only form of 
mental wealth that comes into consideration in estimating a 
civilization’s value. There are in addition its assets in the shape 
of ideals and artistic creations — that is, the satisfactions that 
can be derived from those sources. 


People will be only too readily inclined to include among the 
psychical assets of a culture its ideals — its estimates of what 
achievements are the highest and the most to be striven after. 
It will seem at first as though these ideals would determine the 
achievements of the cultural unit; but the actual course of events 
would appear to be that the ideals are based on the first 
achievements which have been made possible by a combination 
of the culture’s internal gifts and external circumstances, and 
that these first achievements are then held on to by the ideal 
as something to be carried further. The satisfaction which the 
ideal offers to the participants in the culture is thus of a nar- 
cissistic nature; it rests on their pride in what has already been 
successfully achieved. To make this satisfaction complete calls 
for a comparison with other cultures which have aimed at 
different achievements and have developed different ideals. On 
the strength of these differences every culture claims the right 
to look down on the rest. In this way cultural ideals become 
a source of discord and enmity between different cultural 
units, as can be seen most clearly in the case of nations. 

The narcissistic satisfaction provided by the cultural ideal is 
also among the forces which are successful in combating the 
hostility to culture within the cultural unit. This satisfaction 
can be shared in not only by the favoured classes, which enjoy 
the benefits of the culture, but also by the suppressed ones, 
since the right to despise the people outside it compensates them 
for the wrongs they suffer within their own unit. No doubt one 
is a wretched plebeian, harassed by debts and military service; 
but, to make up for it, one is a Roman citizen, one has one’s 
share in the task of ruling other nations and dictating their laws. 
This identification of the suppressed classes with the class who 
rules and exploits them is, however, only part of a larger whole. 
For, on the other hand, the suppressed classes can be emotionally 
attached to their masters; in spite of their hostility to them they 
may see in them their ideals; unless such relations of a funda- 
mentally satisfying kind subsisted, it would be impossible to 
understand how a number of civilizations have survived so long 
in spite of the justifiable hostility of large human masses. 

A different kind of satisfaction is afforded by art to the par- 
ticipants in a cultural unit, though as a rule it remains in- 
accessible to the masses, who are engaged in exhausting work 
and have not enjoyed any personal education. As we discovered 


long since , 1 art offers substitutive satisfactions for the oldest 
and still most deeply felt cultural renunciations, and for that 
reason it serves as nothing else does to reconcile a man to the 
sacrifices he has made on behalf of civilization. On the other 
hand, the creations of art heighten his feelings of identification, 
of which every cultural unit stands in so much need, by pro- 
viding an occasion for sharing highly valued emotional ex- 
periences. And when those creations picture the achievements 
of his particular culture and bring to his mind its ideals in an 
impressive manner, they also minister to his narcissistic 

No mention has yet been made of what is perhaps the most 
important item in the psychical inventory of a civilization. 
This consists in its religious ideas in the widest sense — in other 
words (which will be justified later) in its illusions. 

1 [Cf., for instance, ‘Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming’ (1908e).] 


In what does the peculiar value of religious ideas lie? 

We have spoken of the hostility to civilization which is pro- 
duced by the pressure that civilization exercises, the renuncia- 
tions of instinct which it demands. If one imagines its prohibi- 
tions lifted — if, then, one may take any woman one pleases as a 
sexual object, if one may without hesitation kill one’s rival for 
her love or anyone else who stands in one’s way, if, too, one can 
carry off any of the other man’s belongings without asking 
leave — how splendid, what a string of satisfactions one’s life 
would be! True, one soon comes across the first difficulty: 
everyone else has exactly the same wishes as I have and will 
treat me with no more consideration than I treat him. And so 
in reality only one person could be made unrestrictedly happy 
by such a removal of the restrictions of civilization, and he 
would be a tyrant, a dictator, who had seized all the means to 
power. And even he would have every reason to wish that the 
others would observe at least one cultural commandment: 
‘thou shalt not kill’. 

But how ungrateful, how short-sighted after all, to strive for 
the abolition of civilization! What would then remain would 
be a state of nature, and that would be far harder to bear. It 
is true that nature would not demand any restrictions of instinct 
from us, she would let us do as we liked; but she has her own 
particularly effective method of restricting us. She destroys us — 
coldly, cruelly, relentlessly, as it seems to us, and possibly 
through the very things that occasioned our satisfaction. It was 
precisely because of these dangers with which nature threatens 
us that we came together and created civilization, which is also, 
among other things, intended to make our communal life possible. 
For the principal task of civilization, its actual raison d’etre, is to 
defend us against nature. 

We all know that in many ways civilization does this fairly 
well already, and clearly as time goes on it will do it much 
better. But no one is under the illusion that nature has already 
been vanquished; and few dare hope that she will ever be 
entirely subjected to man. There are the elements, which seem 
to mock at all human control: the earth, which quakes and is 



torn apart and buries all human life and its works; water, which 
deluges and drowns everything in a turmoil; storms, which blow 
everything before them; there are diseases, which we have only 
recently recognized as attacks by other organisms; and finally 
there is the painful riddle of death, against which no medicine 
has yet been found, nor probably will be. With these forces 
nature rises up against us, majestic, cruel and inexorable; she 
brings to our mind once more our weakness and helplessness, 
which we thought to escape through the work of civilization. 
One of the few gratifying and exalting impressions which man- 
kind can offer is when, in the face of an elemental catastrophe, 
it forgets the discordancies of its civilization and all its internal 
difficulties and animosities, and recalls the great common task 
of preserving itself against the superior power of nature. 

For the individual, too, life is hard to bear, just as it is for 
mankind in general. The civilization in which he participates 
imposes some amount of privation on him, and other men bring 
him a measure of suffering, either in spite of the precepts of his 
civilization or because of its imperfections. To this are added the 
injuries which untamed nature — he calls it Fate — inflicts on 
him. One might suppose that this condition of things would 
result in a permanent state of anxious expectation in him and a 
severe injury to his natural narcissism. We know already how 
the individual reacts to the injuries which civilization and other 
men inflict on him: he develops a corresponding degree of re- 
sistance to the regulations of civilization and of hostility to it. 
But how does he defend himself against the superior powers of 
nature, of Fate, which threaten him as they threaten all the 

Civilization relieves him of this task; it performs it in the same 
way for all alike; and it is noteworthy that in this almost all 
civilizations act alike. Civilization does not call a halt in the 
task of defending man against nature, it merely pursues it by 
other means. The task is a manifold one. Man’s self-regard, 
seriously menaced, calls for consolation; life and the universe 
must be robbed of their terrors; moreover his curiosity, moved, 
it is true, by the strongest practical interest, demands an answer. 

A great deal is already gained with the first step: the humani- 
zation of nature. Impersonal forces and destinies cannot be 
approached; they remain eternally remote. But if the elements 
have passions that rage as they do in our own souls, if death 


itself is not something spontaneous but the violent act of an evil 
Will, if everywhere in nature there are Beings around us of a 
kind that we know in our own society, then we can breathe 
freely, can feel at home in the uncanny and can deal by psychical 
means with our senseless anxiety. We are still defenceless, per- 
haps, but we are no longer helplessly paralysed; we can at least 
react. Perhaps, indeed, we are not even defenceless. We can 
apply the same methods against these violent supermen outside 
that we employ in our own society; we can try to adjure them, 
to appease them, to bribe them, and, by so influencing them, 
we may rob them of a part of their power. A replacement like 
this of natural science by psychology not only provides im- 
mediate relief, but also points the way to a further mastering of 
the situation. 

For this situation is nothing new. It has an infantile prototype, 
of which it is in fact only the continuation. For once before one 
has found oneself in a similar state of helplessness: as a small 
child, in relation to one’s parents. One had reason to fear them, 
and especially one’s father; and yet one was sure of his pro- 
tection against the dangers one knew. Thus it was natural to 
assimilate the two situations. Here, too, wishing played its part, 
as it does in dream-life. The sleeper may be seized with a pre- 
sentiment of death, which threatens to place him in the grave. 
But the dream-work knows how to select a condition that will 
turn even that dreaded event into a wish-fulfilment: the dreamer 
sees himself in an ancient Etruscan grave which he has climbed 
down into, happy to find his archaeological interests satisfied . 1 
In the same way, a man makes the forces of nature not simply 
into persons with whom he can associate as he would with his 
equals — that would not do justice to the overpowering im- 
pression which those forces make on him — but he gives them 
the character of a father. He turns them into gods, following in 
this, as I have tried to show , 2 not only an infantile prototype 
but a phylogenetic one. 

In the course of time the first observations were made of 
regularity and conformity to law in natural phenomena, and 
with this the forces of nature lost their human traits. But man’s 

1 [This was an actual dream of Freud’s, reported in Chapter VI (G) 
of The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), Standard Ed., 5, 454-5.] 

2 [See Section 6 of the fourth essay in Totem and Taboo (1912-13), 
Standard Ed., 13, 146 ff.] 


helplessness remains and along with it his longing for his father, 
and the gods. The gods retain their threefold task: they must 
exorcize the terrors of nature, they must reconcile men to the 
cruelty of Fate, particularly as it is shown in death, and they 
must compensate them for the sufferings and privations which 
a civilized life in common has imposed on them. 

But within these functions there is a gradual displacement of 
accent. It was observed that the phenomena of nature developed 
automatically according to internal necessities. Without doubt 
the gods were the lords of nature; they had arranged it to be as 
it was and now they could leave it to itself. Only occasionally, 
in what are known as miracles, did they intervene in its course, 
as though to make it plain that they had relinquished nothing 
of their original sphere of power. As regards the apportioning of 
destinies, an unpleasant suspicion persisted that the perplexity 
and helplessness of the human race could not be remedied. It 
was here that the gods were most apt to fail. If they themselves 
created Fate, then their counsels must be deemed inscrutable. 
The notion dawned on the most gifted people of antiquity that 
Moira [Fate] stood above the gods and that the gods them- 
selves had their own destinies. And the more autonomous nature 
became and the more the gods withdrew from it, the more 
earnestly were all expectations directed to the third function of 
the gods — the more did morality become their true domain. 
It now became the task of the gods to even out the defects and 
evils of civilization, to attend to the sufferings which men 
inflict on one another in their life together and to watch over the 
fulfilment of the precepts of civilization, which men obey so 
imperfectly. Those precepts themselves were credited with a 
divine origin; they were elevated beyond human society and were 
extended to nature and the universe. 

And thus a store of ideas is created, born from man’s need to 
make his helplessness tolerable and built up from the material 
of memories of the helplessness of his own childhood and the 
childhood of the human race. It can clearly be seen that the 
possession of these ideas protects him in two directions — against 
the dangers of nature and Fate, and against the injuries that 
threaten him from human society itself. Here is the gist of the 
matter. Life in this world serves a higher purpose; no doubt it is 
not easy to guess what that purpose is, but it certainly signifies a 
perfecting of man’s nature. It is probably the spiritual part of 



man, the soul, which in the course of time has so slowly and 
unwillingly detached itself from the body, that is the object of 
this elevation and exaltation. Everything that happens in this 
world is an expression of the intentions of an intelligence superior 
to us, which in the end, though its ways and byways are 
difficult to follow, orders everything for the best — that is, to 
make it enjoyable for us. Over each one of us there watches a 
benevolent Providence which is only seemingly stem and 
which will not suffer us to become a plaything of the over- 
mighty and pitiless forces of nature. Death itselfis not extinction, 
is not a return to inorganic lifelessness, but the beginning of 
a new kind of existence which lies on the path of development to 
something higher. And, looking in the other direction, this 
view announces that the same moral laws which our civiliza- 
tions have set up govern the whole universe as well, except that 
they are maintained by a supreme court of justice with in- 
comparably more power and consistency. In the end all good 
is rewarded and all evil punished, if not actually in this form of 
life then in the later existences that begin after death. In this 
way all the terrors, the sufferings and the hardships of life are 
destined to be obliterated. Life after death, which continues 
life on earth just as the invisible part of the spectrum joins on to 
the visible part, brings us all the perfection that we may perhaps 
have missed here. And the superior wisdom which directs this 
course of things, the infinite goodness that expresses itself in it, 
the justice that achieves its aim in it — these are the attributes 
of the divine beings who also created us and the world as a 
whole, or rather, of the one divine being into which, in our 
civilization, all the gods of antiquity have been condensed. The 
people which first succeeded in thus concentrating the divine 
attributes was not a little proud of the advance. It had laid 
open to view the father who had all along been hidden behind 
every divine figure as its nucleus. Fundamentally this was a 
return to the historical beginnings of the idea of God. Now that 
God was a single person, man’s relations to him could recover 
the intimacy and intensity of the child’s relation to his father. 
But if one had done so much for one’s father, one wanted to have 
a reward, or at least to be his only beloved child, his Chosen 
People. Very much later, pious America laid claim to being 
‘God’s own Country’; and, as regards one of the shapes in 
which men worship the deity, the claim is undoubtedly valid. 


The religious ideas that have been summarized above have 
of course passed through a long process of development and have 
been adhered to in various phases by various civilizations. I 
have singled out one such phase, which roughly corresponds 
to the final form taken by our present-day white Christian 
civilization. It is easy to see that not all the parts of this -picture 
tally equally well with one another, that not all the questions 
that press for an answer receive one, and that it is difficult to 
dismiss the contradiction of daily experience. Nevertheless, such 
as they are, those ideas — ideas which are religious in the widest 
sense — are prized as the most precious possession of civilization, 
as the most precious thing it has to offer its participants. It is 
far more highly prized than all the devices for winning treasures 
from the earth or providing men with sustenance or preventing 
their illnesses, and so forth. People feel that life would not be 
tolerable if they did not attach to these ideas the value that is 
claimed for them. And now the question arises: what are these 
ideas in the light of psychology? Whence do they derive the 
esteem in which they are held? And, to take a further timid 
step, what is their real worth? 


An enquiry which proceeds like a monologue, without interrup- 
tion, is not altogether free from danger. One is too easily tempted 
into pushing aside thoughts which threaten to break into it, and 
in exchange one is left with a feeling of uncertainty which in the 
end one tries to keep down by over-decisiveness. I shall there- 
fore imagine that I have an opponent who follows my argu- 
ments with mistrust, and here and there I shall allow him to 
interject some remarks . 1 

I hear him say: ‘You have repeatedly used the expressions 
“civilization creates these religious ideas”, “civilization places 
them at the disposal of its participants”. There is something 
about this that sounds strange to me. I cannot myself say why, 
but it does not sound so natural as it does to say that civilization 
has made rules about distributing the products of labour or 
about rights concerning women and children.’ 

I think, all the same, that I am justified in expressing myself 
in this way. I have tried to show that religious ideas have arisen 
from the same need as have all the other achievements of 
civilization: from the necessity of defending oneself against the 
crushingly superior force of nature. To this a second motive was 
added — the urge to rectify the shortcomings of civilization which 
made themselves painfully felt. Moreover, it is especially 
apposite to say that civilization gives the individual these ideas, 
for he finds them there already; they are presented to him 
ready-made, and he would not be able to discover them for 
himself. What he is entering into is the heritage of many 
generations, and he takes it over as he does the multiplication 
table, geometry, and similar things. There is indeed a difference 
in this, but that difference lies elsewhere and I cannot examine 
it yet. The feeling of strangeness that you mention may be partly 
due to the fact that this body of religious ideas is usually put 
forward as a divine revelation. But this presentation of it is 
itself a part of the religious system, and it entirely ignores the 

1 [Freud had adopted the same method of presentation in his recent 
discussion of lay analysis (1926e) and also, though in somewhat different 
circumstances, a quarter of a century earlier in his paper on ‘Screen 
Memories’ (1899a).] 



known historical development of these ideas and their differences 
in different epochs and civilizations. 

‘Here is another point, which seems to me to be more impor- 
tant. You argue that the humanization of nature is derived from 
the need to put an end to man’s perplexity and helplessness in 
the face of its dreaded forces, to get into a relation with them 
and finally to influence them. But a motive of this kind seems 
superfluous. Primitive man has no choice, he has no other way 
of thinking. It is natural to him, something innate, as it were, 
to project his existence outwards into the world and to regard 
every event which he observes as the manifestation of beings 
who at bottom are like himself. It is his only method of com- 
prehension. And it is by no means self-evident, on the contrary 
it is a remarkable coincidence, if by thus indulging his natural 
disposition he succeeds in satisfying one of his greatest needs.’ 

I do not find that so striking. Do you suppose that human 
thought has no practical motives, that it is simply the expression 
of a disinterested curiosity? That is surely very improbable. I 
believe rather that when man personifies the forces of nature he 
is again following an infantile model. He has learnt from the 
persons in his earliest environment that the way to influence 
them is to establish a relation with them; and so, later on, with 
the same end in view, he treats everything else that he comes 
across in the same way as he treated those persons. Thus I do 
not contradict your descriptive observation; it is in fact natural 
to man to personify everything that he wants to understand in 
order later to control it (psychical mastering as a preparation 
for physical mastering) ; but I provide in addition a motive and 
a genesis for this peculiarity of human thinking. 

‘And now here is yet a third point. You have dealt with the 
origin of religion once before, in your book Totem and Taboo 
[1912-13]. But there it appeared in a different light. Everything 
was the son-father relationship. God was the exalted father, 
and the longing for the father was the root of the need for 
religion. Since then, it seems, you have discovered the factor of 
human weakness and helplessness, to which indeed the chief 
role in the formation of religion is generally assigned, and now 
you transpose everything that was once the father complex 
into terms of helplessness. May I ask you to explain this trans- 

With pleasure. I was only waiting for this invitation. But is 


it really a transformation? In Totem and Taboo it was not my 
purpose to explain the origin of religions but only of totemism. 
Gan you, from any of the views known to you, explain the fact 
that the first shape in which the protecting deity revealed itself 
to men should have been that of an animal, that there was a 
prohibition against killing and eating this animal and that 
nevertheless the solemn custom was to kill and eat it communally 
once a year? This is precisely what happens in totemism. And 
it is hardly to the purpose to argue about whether totemism 
ought to be called a religion. It has intimate connections with 
the later god-religions. The totem animals become the sacred 
animals of the gods; and the earliest, but most fundamental 
moral restrictions — the prohibitions against murder and incest 
— originate in totemism. Whether or not you accept the con- 
clusions of Totem and T aboo, I hope you will admit that a number 
of very remarkable, disconnected facts are brought together in 
it into a consistent whole. 

The question of why in the long run the animal god did not 
suffice, and was replaced by a human one, was hardly touched 
on in Totem and Taboo, and other problems concerning the 
formation of religion were not mentioned in the book at all. 
Do you regard a limitation of that kind as the same thing as 
a denial? My work is a good example of the strict isolation of the 
particular contribution which psycho-analytic discussion can 
make to the solution of the problem of religion. If I am now 
trying to add the other, less deeply concealed part, you should 
not accuse me of contradicting myself, just as before you accused 
me of being one-sided. It is, of course, my duty to point out 
the connecting links between what I said earlier and what I 
put forward now, between the deeper and the manifest motives, 
between the father-complex and man’s helplessness and need 
for protection. 

These connections are not hard to find. They consist in the 
relation of the child’s helplessness to the helplessness of the 
adult which continues it. So that, as was to be expected, the 
motives for the formation of religion which psycho-analysis re- 
vealed now turn out to be the same as the infantile contribution 
to the manifest motives. Let us transport ourselves into the mental 
life of a child. You remember the choice of object according to 
the anaclitic [attachment] type, which psycho-analysis talks of ? 1 

1 [See Freud’s paper on narcissism (1914c), Standard Ed., 14, 87.] 


The libido there follows the paths of narcissistic needs and 
attaches itself to the objects which ensure the satisfaction of 
those needs. In this way the mother, who satisfies the child’s 
hunger, becomes its first love-object and certainly also its first 
protection against all the undefined dangers which threaten it 
in the external world — its first protection against anxiety, we 
may say. 

In this function [of protection] the mother is soon replaced 
by the stronger father, who retains that position for the rest of 
childhood. But the child’s attitude to its father is coloured by a 
peculiar ambivalence. The father himself constitutes a danger 
for the child, perhaps because of its earlier relation to its mother. 
Thus it fears him no less than it longs for him and admires him. 
The indications of this ambivalence in the attitude to the father 
are deeply imprinted in every religion, as was shown in Totem 
and Taboo. When the growing individual finds that he is 
destined to remain a child for ever, that he can never do without 
protection against strange superior powers, he lends those 
powers the features belonging to the figure of his father; he 
creates for himself the gods whom he dreads, whom he seeks to 
propitiate, and whom he nevertheless entrusts with his own 
protection. Thus his longing for a father is a motive identical 
with his need for protection against the consequences of his 
human weakness. The defence against childish helplessness is 
what lends its characteristic features to the adult’s reaction to 
the helplessness which he has to acknowledge — a reaction which 
is precisely the formation of religion. But it is not my intention to 
enquire any further into the development of the idea of God; 
what we are concerned with here is the finished body of religious 
ideas as it is transmitted by civilization to the individual. 


Let us now take up the thread of our enquiry . 1 What, then, is 
the psychological significance of religious ideas and under what 
heading are we to classify them? The question is not at all easy 
to answer immediately. After rejecting a number of formula- 
tions, we will take our stand on the following one. Religious 
ideas are teachings and assertions about facts and conditions of 
external (or internal) reality which tell one something one has 
not discovered for oneself and which lay claim to one’s belief. 
Since they give us information about what is most important 
and interesting to us in life, they are particularly highly 
prized. Anyone who knows nothing of them is very ignorant; 
and anyone who has added them to his knowledge may con- 
sider himself much the richer. 

There are, of course, many such teachings about the most 
various things in the world. Every school lesson is full of them. 
Let us take geography. We are told that the town of Constance 
lies on the Bodensee . 2 A student song adds: ‘if you don’t believe 
it, go and see.’ I happen to have been there and can confirm the 
fact that that lovely town lies on the shore of a wide stretch of 
water which all those who live round it call the Bodensee; and 
I am now completely convinced of the correctness of this 
geographical assertion. In this connection I am reminded of 
another, very remarkable, experience. I was already a man of 
mature years when I stood for the first time on the hill of the 
Acropolis in Athens, between the temple ruins, looking out 
over the blue sea. A feeling of astonishment mingled with my 
joy. It seemed to say: ‘So it really is true, just as we leamt at 
school!’ How shallow and weak must have been the belief I 
then acquired in the real truth of what I heard, if I could be so 
astonished now! But I will not lay too much stress on the 
significance of this experience; for my astonishment could have 
had another explanation, which did not occur to me at the 
time and which is of a wholly subjective nature and has to do 
with the special character of the place . 3 

1 [From the end of Chapter III, p. 20.] 

2 [The German name for what we call the Lake of Constance.] 

8 [This had happened in 1904, when Freud was almost fifty. He wrote 



All teachings like these, then, demand belief in their contents, 
but not without producing grounds for their claim. They are 
put forward as the epitomized result of a longer process of 
thought based on observation and certainly also on inferences. 
If anyone wants to go through this process himself instead of 
accepting its result, they show him how to set about it. More- 
over, we are always in addition given the source of the know- 
ledge conveyed by them, where that source is not self-evident, 
as it is in the case of geographical assertions. For instance, the 
earth is shaped like a sphere; the proofs adduced for this are 
Foucault’s pendulum experiment , 1 the behaviour of the 
horizon and the possibility of circumnavigating the earth. 
Since it is impracticable, as everyone concerned realizes, to send 
every schoolchild on a voyage round the world, we are 
satisfied with letting what is taught at school be taken on trust; 
but we know that the path to acquiring a personal conviction 
remains open. 

Let us try to apply the same test to the teachings of religion. 
When we ask on what their claim to be believed is founded, we 
are met with three answers, which harmonize remarkably 
badly with one another. Firstly, these teachings deserve to be 
believed because they were already believed by our primal 
ancestors; secondly, we possess proofs which have been handed 
down to us from those same primaeval times; and thirdly, it is 
forbidden to raise the question of their authentication at all. In 
former days anything so presumptuous was visited with the 
severest penalties, and even to-day society looks askance at any 
attempt to raise the question again. 

This third point is bound to rouse our strongest suspicions. 
After all, a prohibition like this can only be for one reason— 
that society is very well aware of the insecurity of the claim it 
makes on behalf of its religious doctines. Otherwise it would 
certainly be very ready to put the necessary data at the disposal 
of anyone who wanted to arrive at conviction. This being so, it 
is with a feeling of mistrust which it is hard to allay that we pass 
on to an examination of the other two grounds of proof. We 
ought to believe because our forefathers believed. But these 

a full account of the episode in an open letter to Romain Rolland some 
ten years after the present work (1936a).] 

1 [J. B. L. Foucault (1819-68) demonstrated the diurnal motion of the 
earth by means of a pendulum in 1851.] 


ancestors of ours were far more ignorant than we are. They 
believed in things we could not possibly accept to-day; and the 
possibility occurs to us that the doctrines of religion may belong 
to that class too. The proofs they have left us are set down in 
writings which themselves bear every mark of untrustworthiness. 
They are full of contradictions, revisions and falsifications, and 
where they speak of factual confirmations they are themselves 
unconfirmed. It does not help much to have it asserted that 
their wording, or even their content only, originates from 
divine revelation; for this assertion is itself one of the doctrines 
whose authenticity is under examination, and no proposition 
can be a proof of itself. 

Thus we arrive at the singular conclusion that of all the 
information provided by our cultural assets it is precisely the 
elements which might be of the greatest importance to us and 
which have the task of solving the riddles of the universe and of 
reconciling us to the sufferings of life — it is precisely those 
elements that are the least well authenticated of any. We 
should not be able to bring ourselves to accept anything of so 
little concern to us as the fact that whales bear young instead of 
laying eggs, if it were not capable of better proof than this. 

This state of affairs is in itself a very remarkable psycho- 
logical problem. And let no one suppose that what I have said 
about the impossibility of proving the truth of religious 
doctrines contains anything new. It has been felt at all times — 
undoubtedly, too, by the ancestors who bequeathed us this 
legacy. Many of them probably nourished the same doubts as 
ours, but the pressure imposed on them was too strong for them 
to have dared to utter them. And since then countless people 
have been tormented by similar doubts, and have striven to 
suppress them, because they thought it was their duty to 
believe; many brilliant intellects have broken down over this 
conflict, and many characters have been impaired by the 
compromises with which they have tried to find a way out of it. 

If all the evidence put forward for the authenticity of religious 
teachings originates in the past, it is natural to look round and 
see whether the present, about which it is easier to form judge- 
ments, may not also be able to furnish evidence of the sort. If by 
this means we could succeed in clearing even a single portion of 
the religious system from doubt, the whole of it would gain 
enormously in credibility. The proceedings of the spiritualists 


meet us at this point; they are convinced of the survival of the 
individual soul and they seek to demonstrate to us beyond 
doubt the truth of this one religious doctrine. Unfortunately 
they cannot succeed in refuting the fact that the appearance 
and utterances of their spirits are merely the products of their 
own mental activity. They have called up the spirits of the 
greatest men and of the most eminent thinkers, but all the 
pronouncements and information which they have received 
from them have been so foolish and so wretchedly meaningless 
that one can find nothing credible in them but the capacity of 
the spirits to adapt themselves to the circle of people who have 
conjured them up. 

I must now mention two attempts that have been made — 
both of which convey the impression of being desperate 
efforts — to evade the problem. One, of a violent nature, is 
ancient; the other is subtle and modern. The first is the ‘Credo 
quia absurduni of the early Father of the Church . 1 It maintains 
that religious doctrines are outside the jurisdiction of reason — 
are above reason. Their truth must be felt inwardly, and they 
need not be comprehended. But this Credo is only of interest as a 
self-confession. As an authoritative statement it has no binding 
force. Am I to be obliged to believe every absurdity? And if not, 
why this one in particular? There is no appeal to a court above 
that of reason. If the truth of religious doctrines is dependent on 
an inner experience which bears witness to that truth, what is 
one to do about the many people who do not have this rare 
experience? One may require every man to use the gift of 
reason which he possesses, but one cannot erect, on the basis of 
a motive that exists only for a very few, an obligation that shall 
apply to everyone. If one man has gained an unshakable con- 
viction of the true reality of religious doctrines from a state of 
ecstasy which has deeply moved him, of what significance is that 
to others? 

The second attempt is the one made by the philosophy of 
‘As if’. This asserts that our thought-activity includes a great 
number of hypotheses whose groundlessness and even absurdity 
we fully realize. They are called ‘fictions’, but for a variety of 
practical reasons we have to behave ‘as if’ we believed in these 
fictions. This is the case with religious doctrines because of their 
incomparable importance for the maintenance of human 

1 [‘I believe because it is absurd.’ This is attributed to Tertullian.] 


society . 1 This line of argument is not far removed from the 
‘ Credo quia absurdurri . But I think the demand made by the ‘As if’ 
argument is one that only a philosopher could put forward. A 
man whose thinking is not influenced by the artifices of philo- 
sophy will never be able to accept it; in such a man’s view, the 
admission that something is absurd or contrary to reason leaves 
no more to be said. It cannot be expected of him that precisely 
in treating his most important interests he shall forgo the 
guarantees he requires for all his ordinary activities. I am 
reminded of one of my children who was distinguished at an 
early age by a peculiarly marked matter-of-factness. When the 
children were being told a fairy story and were listening to it 
with rapt attention, he would come up and ask: ‘Is that a true 
story?’ When he was told it was not, he would turn away with a 
look of disdain. We may expect that people will soon behave in 
the same way towards the fairy tales of religion, in spite of the 
advocacy of ‘As if’. 

But at present they still behave quite differently; and in past 
times religious ideas, in spite of their incontrovertible lack of 
authentication, have exercised the strongest possible influence 
on mankind. This is a fresh psychological problem. We must 
ask where the inner force of those doctrines lies and to what it is 
that they owe their efficacy, independent as it is of recognition 
by reason. 

1 1 hope I am not doing him an injustice if I take the philosopher of 
‘As if’ as the representative of a view which is not foreign to other 
thinkers: ‘We include as fictions not merely indifferent theoretical 
operations but ideational constructs emanating from the noblest minds, 
to which the noblest part of mankind cling and of which they will not 
allow themselves to be deprived. Nor is it our object so to deprive 
them — for as practical fictions we leave them all intact; they perish only as 
theoretical truths' (Hans Vaihinger, 1922, 68 [C. K. Ogden’s translation, 


I think we have prepared the way sufficiently for an answer to 
both these questions. It will be found if we turn our attention to 
the psychical origin of religious ideas. These, which are given 
out as teachings, are not precipitates of experience or end- 
results of thinking: they are illusions, fulfilments of the oldest, 
strongest and most urgent wishes of mankind. The secret of 
their strength lies in the strength of those wishes. As we already 
know, the terrifying impression of helplessness in childhood 
aroused the need for protection — for protection through love — 
which was provided by the father; and the recognition that this 
helplessness lasts throughout life made it necessary to cling to the 
existence of a father, but this time a more powerful one. Thus 
the benevolent rule of a divine Providence allays our fear of the 
dangers of life; the establishment of a moral world-order 
ensures the fulfilment of the demands of justice, which have so 
often remained unfulfilled in human civilization; and the 
prolongation of earthly existence in a future life provides the 
local and temporal framework in which these wish-fulfilments 
shall take place. Answers to the riddles that tempt the curiosity 
of man, such as how the universe began or what the relation is 
between body and mind, are developed in conformity with the 
underlying assumptions of this system. It is an enormous relief 
to the individual psyche if the conflicts of its childhood arising 
from the father-complex — conflicts which it has never wholly 
overcome — are removed from it and brought to a solution which 
is universally accepted. 

When I say that these things are all illusions, I must define the 
meaning of the word. An illusion is not the same thing as an 
error; nor is it necessarily an error. Aristotle’s belief that ver- 
min are developed out of dung (a belief to which ignorant 
people still cling) was an error; so was the belief of a former 
generation of doctors that tabes dorsalis is the result of sexual 
excess. It would be incorrect to call these errors illusions. On 
the other hand, it was an illusion of Columbus’s that he had 
discovered a new sea-route to the Indies. The part played by his 
wish in this error is very clear. One may describe as an illusion 
the assertion made by certain nationalists that the Indo- 



Germanic race is the only one capable of civilization; or the 
belief, which was only destroyed by psycho-analysis, that 
children are creatures without sexuality. What is characteristic 
of illusions is that they are derived from human wishes. In this 
respect they come near to psychiatric delusions. But they 
differ from them, too, apart from the more complicated 
structure of delusions. In the case of delusions, we emphasize as 
essential their being in contradiction with reality. Illusions need 
not necessarily be false — that is to say, unrealizable or in 
contradiction to reality. For instance, a middle-class girl may 
have the illusion that a prince will come and marry her. This is 
possible; and a few such cases have occurred. That the Messiah 
will come and found a golden age is much less likely. Whether 
one classifies this belief as an illusion or as something analogous 
to a delusion will depend on one’s personal attitude. Examples 
of illusions which have proved true are not easy to find, but the 
illusion of the alchemists that all metals can be turned into 
gold might be one of them. The wish to have a great deal of 
gold, as much gold as possible, has, it is true, been a good deal 
damped by our present-day knowledge of the determinants of 
wealth, but chemistry no longer regards the transmutation of 
metals into gold as impossible. Thus we call a belief an illusion 
when a wish-fulfilment is a prominent factor in its motivation, 
and in doing so we disregard its relations to reality, just as the 
illusion itself sets no store by verification. 

Having thus taken our bearings, let us return once more to 
the question of religious doctrines. We can now repeat that all 
of them are illusions and insusceptible of proof. No one can be 
compelled to think them true, to believe in them. Some of them 
are so improbable, so incompatible with everything we have 
laboriously discovered about the reality of the world, that we 
may compare them — if we pay proper regard to the psycho- 
logical differences — to delusions. Of the reality value of most 
of them we cannot judge; just as they cannot be proved, so they 
cannot be refuted. We still know too little to make a critical 
approach to them. The riddles of the universe reveal themselves 
only slowly to our investigation; there are many questions to 
which science to-day can give no answer. But scientific work is 
the only road which can lead us to a knowledge of reality out- 
side ourselves. It is once again merely an illusion to expect any- 
thing from intuition and introspection; they can give us nothing 


but particulars about our own mental life, which are hard to 
interpret, never any information about the questions which 
religious doctrine finds it so easy to answer. It would be 
insolent to let one’s own arbitrary will step into the breach and, 
according to one’s personal estimate, declare this or that part 
of the religious system to be less or more acceptable. Such 
questions are too momentous for that; they might be called 
too sacred. 

At this point one must expect to meet with an objection. 
‘Well then, if even obdurate sceptics admit that the assertions 
of religion cannot be refuted by reason, why should I not 
believe in them, since they have so much on their side — tradi- 
tion, the agreement of mankind, and all the consolations they 
offer?’ Why not, indeed? Just as no one can be forced to believe, 
so no one can be forced to disbelieve. But do not let us be 
satisfied with deceiving ourselves that arguments like these take 
us along the road of correct thinking. If ever there was a case 
of a lame excuse we have it here. Ignorance is ignorance; no 
right to believe anything can be derived from it. In other 
matters no sensible person will behave so irresponsibly or rest 
content with such feeble grounds for his opinions and for the 
line he takes. It is only in the highest and most sacred things that 
he allows himself to do so. In reality these are only attempts at 
pretending to oneself or to other people that one is still firmly 
attached to religion, when one has long since cut oneself loose 
from it. Where questions of religion are concerned, people are 
guilty of every possible sort of dishonesty and intellectual mis- 
demeanour. Philosophers stretch the meaning of words until 
they retain scarcely anything of their original sense. They give 
the name of ‘God’ to some vague abstraction . which they have 
created for themselves; having done so they can pose before all 
the world as deists, as believers in God, and they can even 
boast that they have recognized a higher, purer concept of God, 
notwithstanding that their God is now nothing more than an 
insubstantial shadow and no longer the mighty personality of 
religious doctrines. Critics persist in describing as ‘deeply 
religious’ anyone who admits to a sense of man’s insignificance 
or impotence in the face of the universe, although what con- 
stitutes the essence of the religious attitude is not this feeling but 
only the next step after it, the reaction to it which seeks a remedy 
for it. The man who goes no further, but humbly acquiesces in 


the small part which human beings play in the great world — 
such a man is, on the contrary, irreligious in the truest sense of 
the word. 

To assess the truth- value of religious doctrines does not lie 
within the scope of the present enquiry. It is enough for us that 
we have recognized them as being, in their psychological 
nature, illusions. But we do not have to conceal the fact that 
this discovery also strongly influences our attitude to the 
question which must appear to many to be the most important 
of all. We know approximately at what periods and by what 
kind of men religious doctrines were created. If in addition we 
discover the motives which led to this, our attitude to the prob- 
lem of religion will undergo a marked displacement. We shall 
tell ourselves that it would be very nice if there were a God who 
created the world and was a benevolent Providence, and if 
there were a moral order in the universe and an after-life; but 
it is a very striking fact that all this is exactly as we are bound 
to wish it to be. And it would be more remarkable still if our 
wretched, ignorant and downtrodden ancestors had succeeded 
in solving all these difficult riddles of the universe. 


Having recognized religious doctrines as illusions, we are at once 
faced by a further question : may not other cultural assets of which 
we hold a high opinion and by which we let our lives be ruled 
be of a similar nature? Must not the assumptions that determine 
our political regulations be called illusions as well? and is it not 
the case that in our civilization the relations between the sexes 
are disturbed by an erotic illusion or a number of such illusions? 
And once our suspicion has been aroused, we shall not shrink 
from asking too whether our conviction that we can learn 
something about external reality through the use of observation 
and reasoning in scientific work — whether this conviction has 
any better foundation. Nothing ought to keep us from directing 
our observation to our own selves or from applying our thought 
to criticism of itself. In this .field a number of investigations 
open out before us, whose results could not but be decisive for 
the construction of a 'Weltanschauung’. We surmise, moreover, 
that such an effort would not be wasted and that it would at 
least in part justify our suspicion. But the author does not dis- 
pose of the means for undertaking so comprehensive a task; he 
needs must confine his work to following out one only of these 
illusions — that, namely, of religion. 

But now the loud voice of our opponent brings us to a halt. 
We are called to account for our wrong-doing: 

‘Archaeological interests are no doubt most praiseworthy, 
but no one undertakes an excavation if by doing so he is going 
to undermine the habitations of the living so that they collapse 
and bury people under their ruins. The doctrines of religion are 
not a subject one can quibble about like any other. Our 
civilization is built up on them, and the maintenance of human 
society is based on the majority of men’s believing in the truth 
of those doctrines. If men are taught that there is no almighty 
and all-just God, no divine world-order and no future life, they 
will feel exempt from all obligation to obey the precepts of 
civilization. Everyone will, without inhibition or fear, follow 
his asocial, egoistic instincts and seek to exercise his power; 
Chaos, which we have banished through many thousands of 
years of the work of civilization, will come again. Even if we 



knew, and could prove, that religion was not in possession of the 
truth, we ought to conceal the fact and behave in the way pre- 
scribed by the philosophy of “As if” — and this in the interest of 
the preservation of us all. And apart from the danger of the 
undertaking, it would be a purposeless cruelty. Countless 
people find their one consolation in religious doctrines, and can 
only bear life with their help. You would rob them of their 
support, without having anything better to give them in 
exchange. It is admitted that so far science has not achieved 
much, but even if it had advanced much further it would not 
suffice for man. Man has imperative needs of another sort, 
which can never be satisfied by cold science; and it is very 
strange — indeed, it is the height of inconsistency — that a 
psychologist who has always insisted on what a minor part is 
played in human affairs by the intelligence as compared with 
the life of the instincts — that such a psychologist should now try 
to rob mankind of a precious wish-fulfilment and should pro- 
pose to compensate them for it with intellectual nourishment.’ 

What a lot of accusations all at once! Nevertheless I am 
ready with rebuttals for them all; and, what is more, I shall 
assert the view that civilization runs a greater risk if we main- 
tain our present attitude to religion than if we give it up. 

But I hardly know where to begin my reply. Perhaps with the 
assurance that I myself regard my undertaking as completely 
harmless and free of risk. It is not I who am overvaluing the 
intellect this time. If people are as my opponents describe them 
— and I should not like to contradict them — then there is no 
danger of a devout believer’s being overcome by my arguments 
and deprived of his faith. Besides, I have said nothing which 
other and better men have not said before me in a much more 
complete, forcible and impressive manner. Their names are 
well known, and I shall not cite them, for I should not like to 
give an impression that I am seeking to rank myself as one of 
them. All I have done — and this is the only thing that is new in 
my exposition — is to add some psychological foundation to the 
criticisms of my great predecessors. It is hardly to be expected 
that precisely this addition will produce the effect which was 
denied to those earlier efforts. No doubt I might be asked here 
what is the point of writing these things if I am certain that they 
will be ineffective. But I shall come back to that later. 

The one person this publication may injure is myself. I shall 


have to listen to the most disagreeable reproaches for my 
shallowness, narrow-mindedness and lack of idealism or of 
understanding for the highest interests of mankind. But on the 
one hand, such remonstrances are not new to me; and on the 
other, if a man has already learnt in his youth to rise superior to 
the disapproval of his contemporaries, what can it matter to 
him in his old age when he is certain soon to be beyond the 
reach of all favour or disfavour? In former times it was different. 
Then utterances such as mine brought with them a sure curtail- 
ment of one’s earthly existence and an effective speeding-up of 
the opportunity for gaining a personal experience of the after- 
life. But, I repeat, those times are past and to-day writings such 
as this bring no more danger to their author than to their 
readers. The most that can happen is that the translation and 
distribution of his book will be forbidden in one country or 
another — and precisely, of course, in a country that is con- 
vinced of the high standard of its culture. But if one puts in any 
plea at all for the renunciation of wishes and for acquiescence in 
Fate, one must be able to tolerate this kind of injury too. 

The further question occurred to me whether the publication 
of this work might not after all do harm. Not to a person, how- 
ever, but to a cause — the cause of psycho-analysis. For it can- 
not be denied that psycho-analysis is my creation, and it has 
met with plenty of mistrust and ill-will. If I now come forward 
with such displeasing pronouncements, people will be only too 
ready to make a displacement from my person to psycho- 
analysis. ‘Now we see,’ they will say, ‘where psycho-analysis 
leads to. The mask has fallen; it leads to a denial of God and of 
a moral ideal, as we always suspected. To keep us from this 
discovery we have been deluded into thinking that psycho- 
analysis has no Weltanschauung and never can construct one .’ 1 

An outcry of this kind will really be disagreeable to me on 
account of my many fellow-workers, some of whom do not by 
any means share my attitude to the problems of religion. But 
psycho-analysis has already weathered many storms and now 
it must brave this fresh one. In point of fact psycho-analysis is a 
method of research, an impartial instrument, like the infini- 
tesimal calculus, as it were. If a physicist were to discover with 
the latter’s help that after a certain time the earth would be 

1 [See some remarks at the end of Chapter II of Inhibitions, Symptoms 
and Anxiety (1926</), Standard Ed., 20, 95-6.] 


destroyed, we would nevertheless hesitate to attribute destruc- 
tive tendencies to the calculus itself and therefore to proscribe 
it. Nothing that I have said here against the truth-value of 
religions needed the support of psycho-analysis; it had been said 
by others long before analysis came into existence. If the 
application of the psycho-analytic method makes it possible to 
find a new argument against the truths of religion, tant pis for 
religion; but defenders of religion will by the same right make 
use of psycho-analysis in order to give full value to the affective 
significance of religious doctrines. 

And now to proceed with our defence. Religion has clearly 
performed great services for human civilization. It has contri- 
buted much towards the taming of the asocial instincts. But not 
enough. It has ruled human society for many thousands of 
years and has had time to show what it can achieve. If it had 
succeeded in making the majority of mankind happy, in com- 
forting them, in reconciling them to life and in making them 
into vehicles of civilization, no one would dream of attempting 
to alter the existing conditions. But what do we see instead? We 
see that an appallingly large number of people are dissatisfied 
with civilization and unhappy in it, and feel it as a yoke which 
must be shaken off; and that these people either do everything 
in their power to change that civilization, or else go so far in 
their hostility to it that they will have nothing to do with 
civilization or with a restriction of instinct. At this point it will 
be objected against us that this state of affairs is due to the very 
fact that religion has lost a part of its influence over human 
masses precisely because of the deplorable effect of the advances 
of science. We will note this admission and the reason given for 
it, and we shall make use of it later for our own purposes; but 
the objection itself has no force. 

It is doubtful whether men were in general happier at a time 
when religious doctrines held unrestricted sway; more moral 
they certainly were not. They have always known how to 
externalize the precepts of religion and thus to nullify their 
intentions. The priests, whose duty it was to ensure obedience 
to religion, met them half-way in this. God’s kindness must lay 
a restraining hand on His justice. One sinned, and then one 
made a sacrifice or did penance and then one was free to sin 
once more. Russian introspectiveness has reached the pitch of 
concluding that sin is indispensable for the enjoyment of all the 


blessings of divine grace, so that, at bottom, sin is pleasing to 
God. It is no secret that the priests could only keep the masses 
submissive to religion by making such large concessions as 
these to the instinctual nature of man. Thus it was agreed: God 
alone is strong and good, man is weak and sinful. In every age 
immorality has found no less support in religion than morality 
has. If the achievements of religion in respect to man’s happi- 
ness, susceptibility to culture 1 and moral control are no better 
than this, the question cannot but arise whether we are not over- 
rating its necessity for mankind, and whether we do wisely in 
basing our cultural demands upon it. 

Let us consider the unmistakable situation as it is to-day. We 
have heard the admission that religion no longer has the same 
influence on people that it used to. (We are here concerned 
with European Christian civilization.) And this is not because 
its promises have grown less but because people find them less 
credible. Let us admit that the reason — though perhaps not the 
only reason — for this change is the increase of the scientific 
spirit in the higher strata of human society. Criticism has 
whittled away the evidential value of religious documents, 
natural science has shown up the errors in them, and compara- 
tive research has been struck by the fatal resemblance between 
the religious ideas which we revere and the mental products of 
primitive peoples and times. 

The scientific spirit brings about a particular attitude 
towards worldly matters; before religious matters it pauses for a 
little, hesitates, and finally there too crosses the threshold. In this 
process there is no stopping; the greater the number of men to 
whom the treasures of knowledge become accessible, the more 
widespread is the falling-away from religious belief — at first 
only from its obsolete and objectionable trappings, but later 
from its fundamental postulates as well. The Americans who 
instituted the ‘monkey trial’ at Dayton 2 have alone shown them- 
selves consistent. Elsewhere the inevitable transition is accom- 
plished by way of half-measures and insincerities. 

1 [The nature of ‘susceptibility to culture’ had been discussed by 
Freud in the first section of his paper on ‘War and Death’ (19154), 
Standard Ed., 14, 283.] 

2 [A small town in Tennessee where, in 1925, a science teacher was 
prosecuted for breach of a State law by teaching that ‘man is descended 
from the lower animals’.] 


Civilization has little to fear from educated people and brain- 
workers. In them the replacement of religious motives for 
civilized behaviour by other, secular motives would proceed 
unobtrusively; moreover, such people are to a large extent 
themselves vehicles of civilization. But it is another matter 
with the great mass of the uneducated and oppressed, who have 
every reason for being enemies of civilization. So long as they 
do not discover that people no longer believe in God, all is well. 
But they will discover it, infallibly, even if this piece of writing 
of mine is not published. And they are ready to accept the 
results of scientific thinking, but without the change having 
taken place in them which scientific thinking brings about in 
people. Is there not a danger here that the hostility of these 
masses to civilization will throw itself against the weak spot that 
they have found in their task-mistress? If the sole reason why 
you must not kill your neighbour is because God has forbidden 
it and will severely punish you for it in this or the next life — 
then, when you learn that there is no God and that you need not 
fear His punishment, you will certainly kill your neighbour 
without hesitation, and you can only be prevented from doing 
so by mundane force. Thus either these dangerous masses must 
be held down most severely and kept most carefully away from 
any chance of intellectual awakening, or else the relationship 
between civilization and religion must undergo a fundamental 


One might think that there would be no special difficulties in the 
way of carrying out this latter proposal. It is true that it would 
involve a certain amount of renunciation, but more would 
perhaps be gained than lost, and a great danger would be 
avoided. Everyone is frightened of it, however, as though it 
would expose civilization to a still greater danger. When St. 
Boniface 1 cut down the tree that was venerated as sacred by the 
Saxons the bystanders expected some fearful event to follow 
upon the sacrilege. But nothing happened, and the Saxons 
accepted baptism. 

When civilization laid down the commandment that a man 
shall not kill the neighbour whom he hates or who is in his way 
or whose property he covets, this was clearly done in the interest 
of man’s communal existence, which would not otherwise be 
practicable. For the murderer would draw down on himself the 
vengeance of the murdered man’s kinsmen and the secret envy 
of others, who within themselves feel as much inclined as he 
does for such acts of violence. Thus he would not enjoy his 
revenge or his robbery for long, but would have every prospect 
of soon being killed himself. Even if he protected himself 
against his single foes by extraordinary strength and caution, 
he would be bound to succumb to a combination of weaker 
men. If a combination of this sort did not take place, the 
murdering would continue endlessly and the final outcome 
would be that men would exterminate one another. We 
should arrive at the same state of affairs between individuals 
as still persists in Corsica between families, though elsewhere 
only between nations. Insecurity of life, which is an equal 
danger for everyone, now unites men into a society which 
prohibits the individual from killing and reserves to itself the 
right to communal killing of anyone who violates the prohibi- 
tion. Here, then, we have justice and punishment. 

But we do not publish this rational explanation of the 
prohibition against murder. We assert that the prohibition has 
been issued by God. Thus we take it upon ourselves to guess 
His intentions, and we find that He, too, is unwilling for men 

1 [The eighth-century, Devonshire-bom, ‘Apostle of Germany’.] 



to exterminate one another. In behaving in this way we are 
investing the cultural prohibition with a quite special solem- 
nity, but at the same time we risk making its observance de- 
pendent on belief in God. If we retrace this step — if we no longer 
attribute to God what is our own will and if we content our- 
selves with giving the social reason — then, it is true, we have 
renounced the transfiguration of the cultural prohibition, but 
we have also avoided the risk to it. But we gain something else 
as well. Through some kind of diffusion or infection, the 
character of sanctity and inviolability — of belonging to another 
world, one might say — has spread from a few major pro- 
hibitions on to every other cultural regulation, law and 
ordinance. But on these the halo often looks far from becoming: 
not only do they invalidate one another by giving contrary 
decisions at different times and places, but apart from this 
they show every sign of human inadequacy. It is easy to 
recognize in them things that can only be the product of short- 
sighted apprehensiveness or an expression of selfishly narrow 
interests or a conclusion based on insufficient premisses. The 
criticism which we cannot fail to level at them also diminishes 
to an unwelcome extent our respect for other, more justifiable 
cultural demands. Since it is an awkward task to separate what 
God Himself has demanded from what can be traced to the 
authority of an all-powerful parliament or a high judiciary, it 
would be an undoubted advantage if we were to leave God out 
altogether and honestly admit the purely human origin of all 
the regulations and precepts of civilization. Along with their 
pretended sanctity, these commandments and laws would lose 
their rigidity and unchangeableness as well. People could 
understand that they are made, not so much to rule them as, on 
the contrary, to serve their interests; and they would adopt a 
more friendly attitude to them, and instead of aiming at their 
abolition, would aim only at their improvement. This would be 
an important advance along the road which leads to becoming 
reconciled to the burden of civilization. 

But here our plea for ascribing purely rational reasons to the 
precepts of civilization — that is to say, for deriving them from 
social necessity — is interrupted by a sudden doubt. We have 
chosen as our example the origin of the prohibition against 
murder. But does our account of it tally with historical truth? 
We fear not; it appears to be nothing but a rationalistic 


construction. With the help of psycho-analysis, we have made a. 
study of precisely this piece of the cultural history of mankind , 1 
and, basing ourselves on it, we are bound to say that in reality 
things happened otherwise. Even in present-day man purely 
reasonable motives can effect little against passionate impul- 
sions. How much weaker then must they have been in the 
human animal of primaeval times! Perhaps his descendants 
would even now kill one another without inhibition, if it were 
not that among those murderous acts there was one — the kill- 
ing of the primitive father — which evoked an irresistible 
emotional reaction with momentous consequences. From it 
arose the commandment: Thou shalt not kill. Under totemism 
this commandment was restricted to the father-substitute; but 
it was later extended to other people, though even to-day it is 
not universally obeyed. 

But, as was shown by arguments which I need not repeat 
here, the primal father was the original image of God, the 
model on which later generations have shaped the figure of God. 
Hence the religious explanation is right. God actually played a 
part in the genesis of that prohibition; it was His influence, not 
any insight into social necessity, which created it. And the dis- 
placement of man’s will on to God is fully justified. For men 
knew that they had disposed of their father by violence, and in 
their reaction to that impious deed, they determined to respect 
his will thenceforward. Thus religious doctrine tells us the 
historical truth — though subject, it is true, to some modi- 
fication and disguise — whereas our rational account disavows 

We now observe that the store of religious ideas includes not 
only wish-fulfilments but important historical recollections. 
This concurrent influence of past and present must give 
religion a truly incomparable wealth of power. But perhaps 
with the help of an analogy yet another discovery may begin to 
dawn on us. Though it is not a good plan to transplant ideas far 
from the soil in which they grew up, yet here is a conformity 
which we cannot avoid pointing out. We know that a human 
child cannot successfully complete its development to the 
civilized stage without passing through a phase of neurosis 
sometimes of greater and sometimes of less distinctness. This is 
because so many instinctual demands which will later be 
1 [Cf. the fourth essay in Totem and Taboo (1912-13).] 


unserviceable cannot be suppressed by the rational operation 
of the child’s intellect but have to be tamed by acts of repression, 
behind which, as a rule, lies the motive of anxiety. Most of 
these infantile neuroses are overcome spontaneously in the 
course of growing up, and this is especially true of the obses- 
sional neuroses of childhood. The remainder can be cleared up 
later still by psycho-analytic treatment. In just the same way, 
one might assume, humanity as a whole, in its development 
through the ages, fell into states analogous to the neuroses , 1 and 
for the same reasons — namely because in the times of its 
ignorance and intellectual weakness the instinctual renuncia- 
tions indispensable for man’s communal existence had only 
been achieved by it by means of purely affective forces. The 
precipitates of these processes resembling repression which took 
place in prehistoric times still remained attached to civilization 
for long periods. Religion would thus be the universal obses- 
sional neurosis of humanity; like the obsessional neurosis of 
children, it arose out of the Oedipus complex, out of the 
relation to the father. If this view is right, it is to be supposed 
that a tuming-away from religion is bound to occur with the 
fatal inevitability of a process of growth, and that we find our- 
selves at this very juncture in the middle of that phase of 
development. Our behaviour should therefore be modelled on 
that of a sensible teacher who does not oppose an impending 
new development but seeks to ease its path and mitigate the 
violence of its irruption. Our analogy does not, to be sure, 
exhaust the essential nature of religion. If, on the one hand, 
religion brings with it obsessional restrictions, exactly as an 
individual obsessional neurosis does, on the other hand it com- 
prises a system of wishful illusions together with a disavowal 2 
of reality, such as we find in an isolated form nowhere else but 
in amentia , 3 in a state of blissful hallucinatory confusion. But 
these are only analogies, by the help of which we endeavour to 
understand a social phenomenon; the pathology of the indi- 
vidual does not supply us with a fully valid counterpart. 

It has been repeatedly pointed out (by myself and in 

1 [Freud returned to this question at the end of his Civilization and its 
Discontents ( 1 930a) , in the last of the New Introductory Lectures (1933a) 
and in Chapter III of Moses and Monotheism (1939a).] 

* [See the paper on ‘Fetishism’ (1927e).] 

3 [‘Meynert’s amentia’: a state of acute hallucinatory confusion.] 


particular by Theodor Reik 1 ) in how great detail the analogy 
between religion and obsessional neurosis can be followed out, 
and how many of the peculiarities and vicissitudes in the form- 
ation of religion can be understood in that light. And it tallies 
well with this that devout believers are safeguarded in a high 
degree against the risk of certain neurotic illnesses; their 
acceptance of the universal neurosis spares them the task of 
constructing a personal one . 2 

Our knowledge of the historical worth of certain religious 
doctrines increases our respect for them, but does not invalidate 
our proposal that they should cease to be put forward as the 
reasons for the precepts of civilization. On the contrary! Those 
historical residues have helped us to view religious teachings, as 
it were, as neurotic relics, and we may now argue that the time 
has probably come, as it does in an analytic treatment, for 
replacing the effects of repression by the results of the rational 
operation of the intellect. We may foresee, but hardly regret, 
that such a process of remoulding will not stop at renouncing the 
solemn transfiguration of cultural precepts, but that a general 
revision of them will result in many of them being done away 
with. In this way our appointed task of reconciling men to 
civilization will to a great extent be achieved. We need not 
deplore the renunciation of historical truth when we put for- 
ward rational grounds for the precepts of civilization. The 
truths contained in religious doctrines are after all so distorted 
and systematically disguised that the mass of humanity cannot 
recognize them as truth. The case is similar to what happens 
when we tell a child that new-born babies are brought by the 
stork. Here, too, we are telling the truth in symbolic clothing, 
for we know what the large bird signifies. But the child does not 
know it. He hears only the distorted part of what we say, and 
feels that he has been deceived; and we know how often his 
distrust of the grown-ups and his refractoriness actually take 
their start from this impression. We have become convinced 
that it is better to avoid such symbolic disguisings of the truth 
in what we tell children and not to withhold from them a 

1 [Cf. Freud, ‘Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices’ ( 19076) and 
Reik (1927).] 

a [Freud had often made this point before: e.g. in a sentence added 
in 1919 to his study on Leonardo da Vinci (1910c), Standard Ed., II, 



knowledge of the true state of affairs commensurate with their 
intellectual level. 1 

1 [Freud later drew a distinction between what he termed ‘material’ 
and ‘historical’ truth in several passages. See, in particular, Section G 
of Part II of Chapter III of Moses and Monotheism (1939 a). Cf. also an 
Editor’s footnote on the subject in Chapter XII (C) of The Psycho- 
pathology of Everyday Life (19014), Standard Ed., 6, 256.] 


‘You permit yourself contradictions which are hard to reconcile 
with one another. You begin by saying that a piece of writing 
like yours is quite harmless: no one will let himself be robbed of 
his faith by considerations of the sort put forward in it. But 
since it is nevertheless your intention, as becomes evident later 
on, to upset that faith, we may ask why in fact you are publish- 
ing your work? In another passage, moreover, you admit that 
it may be dangerous, indeed very dangerous, for someone to 
discover that people no longer believe in God. Hitherto he has 
been docile, but now he throws off his obedience to the pre- 
cepts of civilization. Yet your whole contention that basing the 
commandments of civilization on religious grounds constitutes 
a danger for civilization rests on the assumption that the 
believer can be turned into an unbeliever. Surely that is a 
complete contradiction. 

‘And here is another. On the one hand you admit that men 
cannot be guided through their intelligence, they are ruled by 
their passions and their instinctual demands. But on the other 
hand you propose to replace the affective basis of their obedi- 
ence to civilization by a rational one. Let who can understand 
this. To me it seems that it must be either one thing or the 

‘Besides, have you learned nothing from history? Once before 
an attempt of this kind was made to substitute reason for 
religion, officially and in the grand manner. Surely you 
remember the French Revolution and Robespierre? And you 
must also remember how short-lived and miserably ineffectual 
the experiment was? The same experiment is being repeated in 
Russia at the present time, and we need not feel curious as to its 
outcome. Do you not think we may take it for granted that men 
cannot do without religion? 

‘You have said yourself that religion is more than an obses- 
sional neurosis. But you have not dealt with this other side of it. 
You are content to work out the analogy with a neurosis. Men, 
you say, must be freed from a neurosis. What else may be lost 
in the process is of no concern to you.’ 

The appearance of contradiction has probably come about 



because I have dealt with complicated matters too hurriedly. 
But we can remedy this to some extent. I still maintain that 
what I have written is quite harmless in one respect. No 
believer will let himself be led astray from his faith by these or 
any similar arguments. A believer is bound to the teachings of 
religion by certain ties of affection. But there are undoubtedly 
countless other people who are not in the same sense believers. 
They obey the precepts of civilization because they let them- 
selves be intimidated by the threats of religion, and they are 
afraid of religion so long as they have to consider it as a part of 
the reality which hems them in. They are the people who break 
away as soon as they are allowed to give up their belief in the 
reality-value of religion. But they too are unaffected by argu- 
ments. They cease to fear religion when they observe that others 
do not fear it; and it was of them that I asserted that they 
would get to know about the decline of religious influence even 
if I did not publish my work. [Cf. p. 39.] 

But I think you yourself attach more weight to the other 
contradiction which you charge me with. Since men are so 
little accessible to reasonable arguments and are so entirely 
governed by their instinctual wishes, why should one set out to 
deprive them of an instinctual satisfaction and replace it by 
reasonable arguments? It is true that men are like this; but have 
you asked yourself whether they must be like this, whether their 
innermost nature necessitates it? Can an anthropologist give the 
cranial index of a people whose custom it is to deform their 
children’s heads by bandaging them round from their earliest 
years? Think of the depressing contrast between the radiant 
intelligence of a healthy child and the feeble intellectual 
powers of the average adult. Can we be quite certain that it is 
not precisely religious education which bears a large share of the 
blame for this relative atrophy? I think it would be a very long 
time before a child who was not influenced began to trouble 
himself about God and things in another world. Perhaps his 
thoughts on these matters would then take the same paths as 
they did with his forefathers. But we do not wait for such a 
development; we introduce him to the doctrines of religion at 
an age when he is neither interested in them nor capable of 
grasping their import. Is it not true that the two main points 
in the programme for the education of children to-day are 
retardation of sexual development and premature religious 


influence? Thus by the time the child’s intellect awakens, the 
doctrines of religion have already become unassailable. But are 
you of opinion that it is very conducive to the strengthening of 
the intellectual function that so important a field should be 
closed against it by the threat of Hell-fire? When a man has 
once brought himself to accept uncritically all the absurdities 
that religious doctrines put before him and even to overlook the 
contradictions between them, we need not be greatly surprised 
at the weakness of his intellect. But we have no other means of 
controlling our instinctual nature but our intelligence. How 
can we expect people who are under the dominance of pro- 
hibitions of thought to attain the psychological ideal, the 
primacy of the intelligence? You know, too, that women in 
general are said to suffer from ‘physiological feeble-minded- 
ness’ 1 — that is, from a lesser intelligence than men. The fact 
itself is disputable and its interpretation doubtful, but one 
argument in favour of this intellectual atrophy being of a 
secondary nature is that women labour under the harshness of 
an early prohibition against turning their thoughts to what would 
most have interested them — namely, the problems of sexual 
life. So long as a person’s early years are influenced not only by 
a sexual inhibition of thought but also by a religious inhibition 
and by a loyal inhibition 2 derived from this, we cannot really 
tell what in fact he is like. 

But I will moderate my zeal and admit the possibility that I, 
too, am chasing an illusion. Perhaps the effect of the religious 
prohibition of thought may not be so bad as I suppose; perhaps 
it will turn out that human nature remains the same even if 
education is not abused in order to subject people to religion. I 
do not know and you cannot know either. It is not only the 
great problems of this life that seem insoluble at the present 
time; many lesser questions too are difficult to answer. But you 
must admit that here we are justified in having a hope for the 
future — that perhaps there is a treasure to be dug up capable of 
enriching civilization and that it is worth making the experi- 
ment of an irreligious education. Should the experiment prove 
unsatisfactory I am ready to give up the reform and to return 

1 [The phrase was used by Moebius (1903). Cf. Freud’s early paper 
on ‘civilized’ sexual morality (1908(f), Standard Ed., 9, 199, where the 
present argument is anticipated.] 

2 [I.e. in regard to the Monarchy.] 



to my earlier, purely descriptive judgement that man is a 
creature of weak intelligence who is ruled by his instinctual 

On another point I agree with you unreservedly. It is 
certainly senseless to begin by trying to do away with religion 
by force and at a single blow. Above all, because it would be 
hopeless. The believer will not let his belief be torn from him, 
either by arguments or by prohibitions. And even if this did 
succeed with some it would be cruelty. A man who has been 
taking sleeping draughts for tens of years is naturally unable to 
sleep if his sleeping draught is taken away from him. That the 
effect of religious consolations may be likened to that of a nar- 
cotic is well illustrated by what is happening in America. There 
they are now trying — obviously under the influence of petticoat 
government — to deprive people of all stimulants, intoxicants, 
and other pleasure-producing substances, and instead; by way 
of compensation, are surfeiting them with piety. This is another 
experiment as to whose outcome we need not feel curious 
[p. 46]. 1 

Thus I must contradict you when you go on to argue that 
men are completely unable to do without the consolation of the 
religious illusion, that without it they could not bear the troubles 
of life and the cruelties of reality. That is true, certainly, of the 
men into whom you have instilled the sweet — or bitter-sweet — 
poison from childhood onwards. But what of the other men, who 
have been sensibly brought up? Perhaps those who do not suffer 
from the neurosis will need no intoxicant to deaden it. They 
will, it is true, find themselves in a difficult situation. They will 
have to admit to themselves the full extent of their helplessness 
and their insignificance in the machinery of the universe; they 
can no longer be the centre of creation, no longer the object of 
tender care on the part of a beneficent Providence. They will be 
in the same position as a child who has left the parental house 
where he was so warm and comfortable. But surely infantilism 
is destined to be surmounted. Men cannot remain children 
for ever; they must in the end go out into ‘hostile life’. We may 
call this ‘ education to reality ’. Need I confess to you that the sole 
purpose of my book is to point out the necessity for this forward 

1 [This was written in the middle of the period of National Prohibition 
in the United States (1920-33).] 



You are afraid, probably, that they will not stand up to the 
hard test? Well, let us at least hope they will. It is something, at 
any rate, to know that one is thrown upon one’s own resources. 
One learns then to make a proper use of them. And men are not 
entirely without assistance. Their scientific knowledge has 
taught them much since the days of the Deluge, and it will 
increase their power still further. And, as for the great neces- 
sities of Fate, against which there is no help, they will learn to 
endure them with resignation. Of what use to them is the 
mirage of wide acres in the moon, whose harvest no one has 
ever yet seen? As honest smallholders on this earth they will 
know how to cultivate their plot in such a way that it supports 
them. By withdrawing their expectations from the other world 
and concentrating all their liberated energies into their life on 
earth, they will probably succeed in achieving a state of things 
in which life will become tolerable for everyone and civilization 
no longer oppressive to anyone. Then, with one of our fellow- 
unbelievers, they will be able to say without regret: 

Den Himmel uberlassen wir 

Den Engeln und den Spatzen. 1 

1 [‘We leave Heaven to the angels and the sparrows.’ From Heine’s 
poem Deutschland (Caput I). The word which is here translated ‘fellow- 
unbelievers’ — in German ‘Unglaubensgenossen ’ — was applied by Heine 
himself to Spinoza. It had been quoted by Freud as an example of a 
particular kind of joke-technique in his book on jokes (1905c), Standard 
Ed., 8, 77.] 


‘That sounds splendid! A race of men who have renounced all 
illusions and have thus become capable of making their 
existence on earth tolerable! I, however, cannot share your 
expectations. And that is not because I am the obstinate 
reactionary you perhaps take me for. No, it is because I am 
sensible. We seem now to have exchanged roles: you emerge as 
an enthusiast who allows himself to be carried away by illusions, 
and I stand for the claims of reason, the rights of scepticism. 
What you have been expounding seems to me to be built upon 
errors which, following your example, I may call illusions, 
because they betray clearly enough the influence of your 
wishes. You pin your hope on the possibility that generations 
which have not experienced the influence of religious doctrines 
in early childhood will easily attain the desired primacy of the 
intelligence over the life of the instincts. This is surely an illu- 
sion: in this decisive respect human nature is hardly likely to 
change. If I am not mistaken — one knows so little about other 
civilizations — there are even to-day peoples which do not grow 
up under the pressure of a religious system, and yet they 
approach no nearer to your ideal than the rest. If you want to 
expel religion from our European civilization, you can only do 
it by means of another system of doctrines; and such a system 
would from the outset take over all the psychological characteris- 
tics of religion — the same sanctity, rigidity and intolerance, the 
same prohibition of thought — for its own defence. You have to 
have something of the kind in order to meet the requirements of 
education. And you cannot do without education. The path 
from the infant at the breast to the civilized man is a long one; 
too many human young would go astray on it and fail to reach 
their life-tasks at the proper time if they were left without 
guidance to their own development. The doctrines which had 
been applied in their upbringing would always set limits to the 
thinking of their riper years — which is exactly what you 
reproach religion with doing to-day. Do you not observe that it 
is an ineradicable and innate defect of our and every other 
civilization, that it imposes on children, who are driven by 
instinct and weak in intellect, the making of decisions which only 



the mature intelligence of adults can vindicate? But civilization 
cannot do otherwise, because of the fact that mankind’s age- 
long development is compressed into a few years of childhood; 
and it is only by emotional forces that the child can be induced 
to master the task set before it. Such, then, are the prospects for 
your “primacy of the intellect”. 

‘And now you must not be surprised if I plead on behalf of 
retaining the religious doctrinal system as the basis of education 
and of man’s communal life. This is a practical problem, not a 
question of reality-value. Since, for the sake of preserving our 
civilization, we cannot postpone influencing the individual 
until he has become ripe for civilization (and many would never 
become so in any case), since we are obliged to impose on the 
growing child some doctrinal system which shall operate in him 
as an axiom that admits of no criticism, it seems to me that the 
religious system is by far the most suitable for the purpose. And 
it is so, of course, precisely on account of its wish-fulfilling and 
consolatory power, by which you claim to recognize it as an 
“illusion”. In view of the difficulty of discovering anything 
about reality — indeed, of the doubt whether it is possible for us 
to do so at all — we must not overlook the fact that human 
needs, too, are a piece of reality, and, in fact, an important 
piece and one that concerns us especially closely. 

‘Another advantage of religious doctrine resides, to my 
mind, in one of its characteristics to which you seem to take 
particular exception. For it allows of a refinement and sublima- 
tion of ideas, which make it possible for it to be divested of 
most of the traces which it bears of primitive and infantile 
thinking. What then remains is a body of ideas which science no 
longer contradicts and is unable to disprove. These modifica- 
tions of religious doctrine, which you have condemned as half- 
measures and compromises, make it possible to avoid the cleft 
between the uneducated masses and the philosophic thinker, 
and to preserve the common bond between them which is so 
important for the safeguarding of civilization. With this, there 
would be no need to fear that the men of the people would dis- 
cover that the upper strata of society “no longer believe in 
God”. I think I have now shown that your endeavours come 
down to an attempt to replace a proved and emotionally 
valuable illusion by another one, which is unproved and without 
emotional value.’ 


You will not find me inaccessible to your criticism. I know 
how difficult it is to avoid illusions; perhaps the hopes I have 
confessed to are of an illusory nature, too. But I hold fast to one 
distinction. Apart from the fact that no penalty is imposed for 
not sharing them, my illusions are not, like religious ones, 
incapable of correction. They have not the character of a 
delusion. If experience should show — not to me, but to others 
after me, who think as I do — that we have been mistaken, we 
will give up our expectations. Take my attempt for what it is. A 
psychologist who does not deceive himself about the difficulty 
of finding one’s bearings in this world, makes an endeavour to 
assess the development of man, in the light of the small portion 
of knowledge he has gained through a study of the mental pro- 
cesses of individuals during their development from child to 
adult. In so doing, the idea forces itself upon him that religion 
is comparable to a childhood neurosis, and he is optimistic 
enough to suppose that mankind will surmount this neurotic 
phase, just as so many children grow out of their similar 
neurosis. These discoveries derived from individual psychology 
may be insufficient, their application to the human race un- 
justified, and his optimism unfounded. I grant you all these 
uncertainties. But often one cannot refrain from saying what 
one thinks, and one excuses oneself on the ground that one is 
not giving it out for more than it is worth. 

And there are two points that I must dwell on a little longer. 
Firstly, the weakness of my position does not imply any strength- 
ening of yours. I think you are defending a lost cause. We may 
insist as often as we like that man’s intellect is powerless in 
comparison with his instinctual life, and we may be right in 
this. Nevertheless, there is something peculiar about this weak- 
ness. The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest 
till it has gained a hearing. Finally, after a countless succession 
of rebuffs, it succeeds. This is one of the few points on which one 
may be optimistic about the future of mankind, but it is in itself 
a point of no small importance. And from it one can derive yet 
other hopes. The primacy of the intellect lies, it is true, in a 
distant, distant future, but probably not in an infinitely distant 
one. It will presumably set itself the same aims as those whose 
realization you expect from your God (of course within human 
limits — so far as external reality, ’Avaynr], allows it), namely the 
love of man and the decrease of suffering. This being so, we may 


tell ourselves that our antagonism is only a temporary one and 
not irreconcilable. We desire the same things, but you are more 
impatient, more exacting, and — why should I not say it? — 
more self-seeking than I and those on my side. You would have 
the state of bliss begin directly after death; you expect the 
impossible from it and you will not surrender the claims of the 
individual. Our God, Aoyog , 1 will fulfil whichever of these 
wishes nature outside us allows, but he will do it very 
gradually, only in the unforeseeable future, and for a new 
generation of men. He promises no compensation for us, who 
suffer grievously from life. On the way to this distant goal your 
religious doctrines will have to be discarded, no matterwhether 
the first attempts fail, or whether the first substitutes prove to 
be untenable. You know why: in the long run nothing can 
withstand reason and experience, and the contradiction which 
religion offers to both is all too palpable. Even purified religious 
ideas cannot escape this fate, so long as they try to preserve any- 
thing of the consolation of religion. No doubt if they confine 
themselves to a belief in a higher spiritual being, whose 
qualities are indefinable and whose purposes cannot be discerned, 
they will be proof against the challenge of science; but then 
they will also lose their hold on human interest. 

And secondly: observe the difference between your attitude 
to illusions and mine. You have to defend the religious illusion 
with all your might. If it becomes discredited — and indeed the 
threat to it is great enough — then your world collapses. There 
is nothing left for you but to despair of everything, of civilization 
and the future of mankind. From that bondage I am, we are, 
free. Since we are prepared to renounce a good part of our 
infantile wishes, we can bear it if a few of our expectations turn 
out to be illusions. 

Education freed from the burden of religious doctrines will 
not, it may be, effect much change in men’s psychological 
nature. Our god Aoyog is perhaps not a very almighty one, and 
he may only be able to fulfil a small part of what his predecessors 
have promised. If we have to acknowledge this we shall accept 
it with resignation. We shall not on that account lose our 
interest in the world and in life, for we have one sure support 

1 The twin gods A6yog [Logos: Reason] and 'Avdyxr] [Ananke: 
Necessity] of the Dutch writer Multatuli. [Cf. an Editor’s footnote to 
‘The Economic Problem of Masochism’ (1924c), Standard Ed., 19, 168.] 


which you lack. We believe that it is possible for scientific work 
to gain some knowledge about the reality of the world, by 
means of which we can increase our power and in accordance 
with which we can arrange our life. If this belief is an illusion, 
then we are in the same position as you. But science has given 
us evidence by its numerous and important successes that it is 
no illusion. Science has many open enemies, and many more 
secret ones, among those who cannot forgive her for having 
weakened religious faith and for threatening to overthrow it. 
She is reproached for the smallness of the amount she has 
taught us and for the incomparably greater field she has left in 
obscurity. But, in this, people forget how young she is, how 
difficult her beginnings were and how infinitesimally small is 
the period of time since the human intellect has been strong 
enough for the tasks she sets. Are we not all at fault, in basing 
our judgements on periods of time that are too short? We 
should make the geologists our pattern. People complain of the 
unreliability of science — how she announces as a law to-day 
what the next generation recognizes as an error and replaces by 
a new law whose accepted validity lasts no longer. But this is 
unjust and in part untrue. The transformations of scientific 
opinion are developments, advances, not revolutions. A law 
which was held at first to be universally valid proves to be a 
special case of a more comprehensive uniformity, or is limited 
by another law, not discovered till later; a rough approximation 
to the truth is replaced by a more carefully adapted one, which 
in turn awaits further perfectioning. There are various fields 
where we have not yet surmounted a phase of research in 
which we make trial with hypotheses that soon have to be 
rejected as inadequate; but in other fields we already possess an 
assured and almost unalterable core of knowledge. Finally, an 
attempt has been made to discredit scientific endeavour in a 
radical way, on the ground that, being bound to the conditions 
of our own organization, it can yield nothing else than sub- 
jective results, whilst the real nature of things outside ourselves 
remains inaccessible. But this is to disregard several factors 
which are of decisive importance for the understanding of 
scientific work. In the first place, our organization — that is, our 
mental apparatus — has been developed precisely in the attempt 
to explore the external world, and it must therefore have 
realized in its structure some degree of expediency; in the 


second place, it is itself a constituent part of the world which we 
set out to investigate, and it readily admits of such an investi- 
gation; thirdly, the task of science is fully covered if we limit it 
to showing how the world must appear to us in consequence of 
the particular character of our organization; fourthly, the 
ultimate findings of science, precisely because of the way in 
which they are acquired, are determined not only by our 
organization but by the things which have affected that 
organization; finally, the problem of the nature of the world 
without regard to our percipient mental apparatus is an empty 
abstraction, devoid of practical interest. 

No, our science is no illusion. But an illusion it would be to 
suppose that what science cannot give us we can get elsewhere. 



G.S. Freud, Gesammelte Schriften (12 vols.), Vienna, 1924-34 

G.W. —Freud, Gesammelte Werke (18 vols.), London, from 1940 

C.P. Freud, Collected Papers (5 vols.), London, 1924-50 

Standard Ed. Freud, Standard Edition (24 vols.), London, from 1953 

Titles of books and periodicals are in italics; titles of papers are in in- 
verted commas. Abbreviations are in accordance with the World List 
of Scientific Periodicals (London, 1952). Further abbreviations used in 
this volume will be found in the List above. Numerals in boldface 
refer to volumes; ordinary numerals refer to pages. The figures in pa- 
rentheses at the end of each entry indicate the page or pages of this 
volume on which the work in question is mentioned. In the case of the 
Freud entries, the letters attached to the dates of publication are in 
accordance with the corresponding entries in the complete bibliography 
of Freud’s writings to be included in the last volume of the Standard 

For non-technical authors, and for technical authors where no specific 
work is mentioned, see the General Index. 

FREUD, S. (1899a) 'fiber Deckerinnerungen’, G.S., 1, 465; G.W., 1, 529. 

[Trans.: 'Screen Memories’, C.P., 5, 47; Standard Ed., 3.] 

(1900a) Die Traumdeutung, Vienna. G.S., a— 3; G.W., 2-3. (if) 

[Trans.: The Interpretation of Dreams, London and New York, 

1 955; Standard Ed., 4—5.] 

(19016) Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens, Berlin, 1904. G.S., 
4> 3» G.W., 4. (45) 

[Trans.: The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Standard Ed., 6.] 

(1905c) Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewussten, Vienna. 
G.S., 9, 5; G.W., 6. (50) 

[Trans.; Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious, Standard Ed., 


(19076) 'Zwangshandlungen und Religionsiibung’, G.S., 10, 210; G.W., 
7, 129. (3, 43-4) 

[Trans.: 'Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices’, C.P., a, 25; 

Standard Ed., g, 1 16.] 




FREUD, S. ( cont .) 

(1908 d) ‘Die “kulturelle” Sexualmoral und die moderne Nervositat’, 
G.S., 5, 143; G.W., 7, 143. (48) 

[Trans.: ‘ "Civilized” Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness’, 
C.P., 2, 76; Standard Ed., g, 179.] 

(igo8e [1907]) ‘Der Dichter und das Phantasieren', G.S., 10, 229; 
G.W., 7, 213. (14) 

[Trans.: 'Creative Writers and Day Dreaming’, C.P., 4, 173; Standard 
Ed., 9, 143.] 

(1910c) Eine Kindheitserinnerung des Leonardo da Vinci, Vienna. 
G.S., 9, 371; G.W., 8, 128. (44) 

[Trans.: Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood, Standard 
Ed., xi, 59.] 

(1912-13) Totem und Tabu, Vienna, 1913, G.S., xo, 3; G.W., 9 (3, 
17, 22-4, 42) 

[Trans.: Totem and Taboo, London, 1950; New York, 1952; Standard 
Ed., 13, 1.] 

(1914c) ‘Zur Einfuhrung des Narzissmus’, G.S., 6, 155; G.W., xo, 138. 

[Trans.: ‘On Narcissism: an Introduction’, C.P., 4, 30; Standard Ed., 
14 > 6 9 ] 

(19156) ‘Zeitgemasses iiber Krieg und Tod’, G.S., xo, 315; G.W., xo, 
324 - ( 38 ) 

[Trans.: ‘Thoughts for the Times on War and Death’, C.P., 4, 288: 
Standard Ed., x4, 275.] 

(1921c) Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse, Vienna. G.S., 6, 261; 
G.W., x3, 73- (7) 

[Trans.: Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, London, 
1959; New York, i960; Standard Ed., x8, 67.] 

(19236) Das Ich und das Es, Vienna. G.S., 6, 353; G.W., X3, 237. (l 1) 
[Trans.: The Ego and the Id, London, 1927; Standard Ed., xg, 3.] 
(1924c) ‘Das okonomische Problem des Masochismus’, G.S., 5, 374; 
G.W.,i 3,371.(54) 

[Trans.: ‘The Economic Problem of Masochism’, C.P., 2, 255; Stan- 
dard Ed., xg, 157.] 

(1926 d) Hemmung, Symptom und Angst, Vienna. G.S., xx, 23; G.W., 
14’ 11 3- (3 6 ) 

[Trans.: Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, London, i960 ( The 
Problem of Anxiety, New York, 1936); Standard Ed., 20, 77.] 

(1926c) Die Frage der Laienanalyse, Vienna. G.S., 11, 307; G.W., X4, 
209. (21) 

[Trans.: The Question of Lay Analysis, London, 1947; Standard Ed., 
20, 179.] 

(1927c) ‘Fetischismus’, G.S., xx, 395; G.W., X4, 311- (43) 



FREUD, S. ( cont .) 

[Trans.: ‘Fetishism’, C.P., 5, 198; Standard Ed., 21, 149.] 

(1930a) Das Unbehagen in der Kultur, Vienna. G.S., 12, 29; G.W., 
14,421.(3, 6, 9, 43) 

[Trans.: Civilization and its Discontents, London and New York, 
1930; Standard Ed., 21, 59.] 

(1933a) Neue Folge der Vorlesungen zur Einfiihrung in die Psycho- 
analyse, Vienna. G.S., 12, 151; G.W., 15, 207. (3) 

[Trans.: New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, London and 
New York, 1933; Standard Ed., 22.] 

(19336) Warum Krieg?, G.S., 12, 349= G.W., 16, 13. (3-4, 9) 

[Trans.: Why War?, C.P., 5, 273; Standard Ed., 22.] 

(*935°) Postscript (1935) to An Autobiographical Study, new edition, 
London and New York; Standard Ed., 20, 71. (3) 

[German Text: 'Nachschrift 1935 zur Selbstdarstellung’ , 2nd edition, 
Vienna, 1936; G.W., 16, 31. German original first appeared late in 

(1936a) Letter to Romain Rolland: ‘Eine Erinnerungsstorung auf der 
Akropolis’, G.W., 16, 250. (25-6) 

[Trans.: ‘A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis’, C.P., 5, 302; 
Standard Ed., 22-] 

(1939a [1937-39]) D er Mann Moses und die monotheistische Religion, 
G.W., 16, 103. (4, 43, 45) 

[Trans.: Moses and Monotheism, London and New York, 1939; Stan- 
dard Ed., 23.] 

MOEBIUS, P. J. (1903) Vber den physiologischen Schwachsinn des 
Weibes (5th ed.), Halle. (48) 

REIIC, T. (1927) ‘Dogma und Zwangsidee’: eine psychoanalytische 
Studie zur Entwicklung der Religion’, Imago, 13, 247; in book form, 
Vienna, 1927. (43 4) 

[Trans.: In Dogma and Compulsions: Psychoanalytic Studies on 
Myths and Religions, New York, 1951.] 

VAIHINGER, H. (1922) Die Philosophie des Als Ob, Berlin. (7th and 
8th ed.; isted., 1911.) (28-9) 

[Trans.: The Philosophy of 'As if’, London, 1924.] 


This index includes the names of non technical authors. It also includes the 
names of technical authors where no reference is made in the text to specific 
works. For reference to specific technical works, the Bibliography should be 

The compilation of the index was undertaken by Mrs. R. S. Partridge. 

Acropolis, the 25 

Aggressiveness, and civilization, 7, 

Ambivalence, 24 
Amentia, Meynert’s, 43 

Prohibition in, 49 n. 
religion in, 19 

Anaclitic object choice, 23-4 

addiction to narcotics, 49 
cranial index of bandaged heads, 47 
infinitesimal calculus, 36-7 
smallholders on earth and estates in 
the moon, 50 
Ananke, 53, 54 n. 

Animal gods, 23 
Animals, 5-6, 10 

Anxiety (see also Fear), 16-17, 24, 43 
Aristotle, 30 

Art, and civilization, 12 14 
'As if’, philosophy of, 28-9, 35 
Athens, 25 

Bodensee, 25 
Boniface, St., 40 

Cannibalism, 10 11 
Childhood impressions, and instinc 
tual disposition, 9 
Children (see also Infantile) 
and parents (see Father; Mother; 

Oedipus complex; Primal father) 
and religion, 47-8, 51-2 
development of super-ego in, 1 1 
helplessness of, 17-18, 23 4, 30, 49 
instinctual impulses of, 10 
neuroses of, 42-3 
Christianity, 20, 38 


aggressive impulses and, 7, 10-12 
art and, 12-14 
defined, 3-6 

hostility of individual to, 6, 9-16, 


moral demands of, 11-12, 15, 18-19 
rational basis for, 40-1, 43-4, 46-7, 

religion and, 18-22, 34-5, 37-9, 43- 
52. 54 

restrictions imposed by, 7-16, 18, 

37. 43. 5° 

science and, 6, 31, 34-5, 37, 50, 54-6 
social aspect of, 6-7, 9, 11-12,40 4 
Columbus, 30 
Confusional states, 43 
Constance (town), 25 
Corsican vendetta, 40 
Credo quia absurdum, 28-9 
Culture and civilization, 3-4, 6 

Danger, 24 

Dayton 'monkey trial’, 38 

riddle of, 16 19 

survival after (see Immortality) 
Dekker, E. D., 54 n. 

Delusions, 31 

Destructiveness (see Aggressiveness) 
Deutschland (by Heine), 50 
Disavowal, 43 

Distortion, in religious doctrine, 44 
Dream of Etruscan grave (Freud's), 17 
Dreams, wish-fulfilment in, 17 
Dream-work, 17 

Economic factors in civilization, 6-7, 




Education, 8 9,47 g, 51 2,54 
Einstein, A., 3 

Eros (see Libido; Sexual instinct) 
Ethics ( see Morality) 

External world 
disavowal of, 43 
man’s control over, 49, 52, 55 6 
religion and knowledge of, 25, 31-4, 

Fate, 16, 18, 36, 50 

child’s relation to, 30, 43 
equated with forces of nature, 17 
equated with God, 17 19, 22-4, 30, 

fear of, 17, 24 
primal, 42 

Fear, of the father, 17, 24 
Foucault, ]. B. L., 26 
French Revolution, 46 
Frustration of instinct, cultural, 10 

Girls (see Women) 


belief in, 32 4, 37 41, 46 7, 52 4 
equated with father, 17 19, 22 4, 

30, 42, 49 

animal, 23 

of antiquity, 17 19, 24 

Hallucinations, 43 
Heine, 50 

of children, 17 18, 23 4, 30, 49 
of man before nature, 17 18, 22 4, 
3°. 49 

Ideals, cultural, 12 14 
Identification, 13 14 
Illusion, religious doctrine as, 30 4, 
43. 49- 51-6 

Immortality, ig, 28, 30, 33 4, 50, 54 
Incestuous impulses, 10 13, 23 
Infantile (see also Childhood; Chil- 

sexuality, 31 

Instincts (see also Sexual instinct) 
dominance of, 46-9, 51, 53 
frustration of, 10 
intelligence and, 48-9, 51, 53 
pressure of civilization on, 7 16, 18, 
37. 43. 50 

repression and, 42-3 
wealth and satisfaction of, 6-7 
Intelligence, primacy of, over in 
stincts, 48-9, 51, 53 

Jews, 19 

Leadership, 8-9 

Libido (see also Sexual instinct) 
narcissistic, 24 

Love, sexual (see Sexual instinct) 
Masses, the 

and civilization, 7-9, 12 13, 52 
and religion, 37 9, 52 
Messiah, the, 31 
Meynert’s amentia, 4 3 n . 3 
Moira, 18 
Monarchy, 48 n. 2 

‘Monkey trial’ at Dayton, Tennessee, 
38 and n. 2 

and civilization, 11 12, 15, 18 19 
and education, 13 
and religion, 18, 33, 37 8 
Mother, and child, 24 
' Multatuli’ (E. D. Dekher), 54 n. 
Murderous impulses (see also Parri 
cide), 10-12, 15, 23, 39 42 
Myths, 44 5 

Narcissism, 16 
and cultural ideals, 13 14 
Narcissistic libido, 24 
Nature, man and the forces of, 15 19, 

Neuroses (see also Obsessional neuro- 

infantile, 42 3 
religion and, 42 4, 46, 53 
Neurotics, 10-1 1 

Object choice, anaclitic, 23 4 
Obsessional neurosis, 43 
and religion, 42 4, 46, 53 
Oedipus complex, and religion, 43 

Parents and children (see Father; 

Parricide, against primal father, 42 
Parsimony, 12 

Primaeval man (see also Primal 
father), 38, 42 



Primal father, killing of, 42 
Primitive races, 22, 38 
Privation, instinctual, 10, r6, 18 
Prohibitions, cultural, 10-12, 15, 23, 
26, 40-2, 48, 51 

Psycho analysis, therapeutic aspect of, 

Reality principle (see External world) 
Reik, T. (see Bibliography) 


and after life (see Immortality) 
and civilization, 18-22, 34-5, 37 9, 
43 - 52. 54 

and education, 48-9, 51-2, 54 
and morality, 18, 33, 37-8 
and obsessional neurosis, 42-4, 46, 

and Oedipus complex, 43 
and science, 38-9, 52, 55 
as consolation, 32, 35, 49, 52, 54 
as wish-fulfilment, 30-1, 35, 42-3, 

justification for belief in, 25-9, 32, 

origins of, 15-24 

Religious doctrines, as illusions, 30-4, 
43, 49,51-6 
Repression, 43-4 
Robespierre, 46 
Rolland, Romain, 25 n. 3 
Russia, 9, 46 


and civilization, 6, 31, 34-5, 37, 50, 

and religion, 38-9, 52, 55 
Sexual instinct (see also Libido) 
restricted by civilization, 15 
Social aspect of civilization, 6-7, 9, 
11-12, 40-4 
Spinoza, 50 n. 

Spiritualism, 27-8 
Stork myth, 44 5 

Super ego, as internalized external au- 
thority, 11 

T ertullian, 2 8 n. 

animal, 23 
meal, 23 

Totemism, 22-3, 42 
Uncanny, the, 17 

Vaihinger, H. (see also Bibliography), 

Wealth, distribution of, 6-7, 10, 12, 


in dreams, 17 

in religion, 30-1, 35, 42-3, 52 
Women, intelligence of, 48 

aversion to, 8 

dependance of civilization on, 6-8, 
10, 12